On the 10-year anniversary of his death, a new exhibition is showcasing two of Philip Jones Griffiths’ most significant bodies of work: photos shot amid the conflict of the Vietnam War, and his pictures of Britain taken between 1950 – 1970.
Titled PJGX, the exhibition – presented by TJ Boulting and Trolley Books, in conjunction with Magnum Photos and the Philip Jones Griffiths Foundation – showcases the two works alongside one another, conveying an all-encompassing legacy of one of history’s finest photojournalists.
“When starting to think about a show like this, any curator would be spoilt for choice,” says Fanny Ferrato, daughter of Philip and co-trustee of the foundation, along with her sister, Katherine Holden.
“Philip will always be known for his Vietnam work, however he hated being thought of as a war photographer. By showing the British work alongside Vietnam, it not only gives you a more rounded view of his life’s work, but also presents an interesting comparison, as most of the photographs in the show were taken in the same time period.”
His photos of Vietnamese conflict, first published in the acclaimed Vietnam INC (1971), were credited with helping shift public perception of the Vietnam war – particularly in the US. Speaking of the work years later, Noam Chomsky said: “If anybody in Washington had read that book, we wouldn’t have had these wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.”
Similarly, his shots of Britain – drawn from 2008 publication Recollections – demonstrate Griffiths’ unparalleled ability as a poignant documenter of place and time. While the two works displayed in PJGX are contrasting in their subject matter, they remain united through his unique curiosity in people and a belief in the power of visual storytelling.
“It has been said that in order to tell a great story you have to concentrate on the 5 ‘W’s: who, what, where, when and why. To Philip the first four were perfunctory and it’s the last one that really counted,” adds Holden.
“This focus and ability to get into the ‘why’ of certain situations certainly helps distinguish Philip as a unique storyteller. As well as this, he had a real empathy with his subjects – whether it be a child in Vietnam suffering the effects of Agent Orange, or an old lady trying to do her shopping in Northern Ireland among the soldiers and sandbags.”
PJGX: Philip Jones Griffiths – Ten Year Anniversary Exhibition is showing 19 March – 21 April, 2018 at London’s TJ Boulting Gallery. Philip Jones Griffiths: Icons is showing 5 June – 27 July, 2018 at Magnum Print Room.