Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Wednesday Artist: Catherine Leroy

She became something of a legend, not only for 
the images she made but for the danger
she repeatedly put herself in.
~ David Schonauer in "A Tribute to Catherine Leroy"

French-born Catherine Leroy (1945-2006) was one of if not the most well-known photographers of the Vietnam War. Just 21 when she arrived in Laos in 1966, she was the first woman (and accredited journalist) to parachute into combat (she'd learned to do so in her teens), and established a record for number of operations covered with the United States Marines during her three years in-country. She survived being wounded in action, and in 1968 was taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese Army, eventually using her French to talk her way out. Her story and photographs from behind enemy lines were published in Life magazine. Both the Associated Press and UPI ran her photos, as did Look magazine.

Leroy subsequently made several documentaries and covered conflicts in Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iran, Libya, and Lebanon, among other countries. Though she stopped documenting war after Lebanon's, Leroy photographed Saigon's fall when she went back to Vietnam in 1975. Her last photoessay assignment*, photographing some Vietnam War veterans who'd been unsuccessful in leaving the war behind, preceded her 2006 death at age 60 from cancer.

In addition to receiving in 1967 a George Polk Award for Picture of the Year, Leroy received in 1976 the Robert Capa Gold Medal — she was the first woman to do so — and, among other recognitions, an Honor Award for Distinguished Service in Journalism (for her reporting from Lebanon) from the University of Missouri. 

Using Vietnam War photographs and letters to her parents, as well as interviews with those who knew her, the New York-based writer, editor, and filmmaker Jacques Menache directed in 2015 a 72-minute documentary on her life and work: Cathy at War. Here is the trailer:

Below is "The Hill Fights", an excerpt from the film:

(My thanks to BoingBoing for the video links.)

Of Interest

Catherine Leroy Photographs: International Center of Photography 

Elizabeth Herman, "The Greatest War Photographer You've Never Heard Of", The  New York Times, March 28, 2017

* Jeffrey Elbies, "They Were Soldiers Once", Popular Photography, December 16, 2008

Donald R. Winslow, "Vietnam War Photojournalist Catherine Leroy, 60", NPPA, July 11, 2006

Steven Winn, "What Can Photos Teach Us About War? Have a Look", SFGate (San Francisco Chronicle), April 19, 2005

Editor's Note, "A Tiny Girl with Paratroopers' Wings", Life, February 16, 1968

No comments: