David H Lyman


Outside The Wire :

The Vietnamese I Met

Just another day's work for the fishermen of Hon Tra, a small village at the mouth of the Tra Bong River.

My photographs of the Vietnamese people I met while stationed in Vietnam, 1967.

A few miles south of the perimeter of the Military Base, at Chu Lai, South Vietnam are numerous villages and hamlets.            

     It was Sunday, an afternoon off, and a bunch of us Seabees were off in borrowed jeep, on another adventure, exploring the villages around our base.

     We turned off Highway One onto an unmarked dirt path, heading east, back toward the sea.  We'd  stopped at a small hamlet to buy bottles of Tiger Beer from a small shop. Whenever we stopped  kids flocked around  the jeep, climbing onboard, and all over us. They jabbered on in a mixture of Army English, French and Vietnamese.

     “You want bang-bang my sister?”

     “You number One Seabee. Souvenir me cigarette?”

The young girls stood back, while the boys kept up a rapid fire dialogue, their hands all over us, then a boy would scamper off with someone’s wrist watch.

     “Hey! That little bugger! He took it right off my wrist! Hey you! Come back here you little thief! Chop-chop.” Giggles would spread throughout the entire herd of kids. Wherever we went the kids were trying to sell us their sisters, coconuts, palm frown woven bowls, Cokes.

     We drove through nameless hamlets, nothing more than groupings of huts, past farmlands alongside the Tra Bong River, people bent over tending their rice paddies and livestock.


As a Navy Journalist, I was expected to produce photographs to accompany my stories for publication. But photography, for me, has always been more than just journalism, it’s been a way for me to see, to experience the world, to record a moment, trap an impression, make a quick sketch of something I want to study later--to make Art. I hope my images enlighten, inspire, provoke or touch the heart of the viewer. Photography provides me with an excuse to enter the lives and worlds of others, to experience life to a deeper level than the casual tourist. A photograph allows me, or any viewer, to study a scene, a face, a moment, to dig out information not seen on first glance. Good photographs do this, great photographs continually mystify and enchant. I have a few photographs on my wall that I've looked at for 50 years--they still reveal new information.

     I'd taken on, as a personal mission, to photograph the people,  villages, fields and families round our Chu Lai Military Complex.  As I didn’t understand the Vietnamese language, it would have to be  my photographs that told their story.

Click on any image to enlarge, then flip through or to start a slide show.