Born: New York, 1950 Served in Vietnam, U.S. Army 168th Combat Engineers Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade Lai Khe 1970-71
From the Artist:
In 1970, I was sent to Vietnam and assigned to a combat engineer company, building roads and clearing land in the jungle, until an army entertainment director heard me playing guitar at a service club. He suggested I form a band to perform for the troops in the field. For the next two months my band, the Soul Coordinators, traveled to remote fighting areas throughout Vietnam, often setting up drums and amps in the deep jungle mud. Sometimes our music competed with artillery fire.
In Vietnam, we seldom talked about our feelings or about the war; conversations were limited. Music and photography were my forms of expression, then as now. Recently, I wrote a quartet, "Quiet Shadows," a portrayal of four soldiers on guard duty in Vietnam. Guard duty began while it was still daylight, late in the afternoon. One day, I was on guard duty near a very strangely shaped tree, which I was sure would fool me later into mistaking it for an enemy soldier. I tried to memorize its shape but sure enough, when night fell I knew that tree was the enemy. All night I continued to perceive other shapes as dangers that in the morning light proved only to be natural growths in the jungle surroundings.
The four musicians sit facing outward in the four cardinal directions. Like the soldiers they represent, they should not communicate with each other during their watch, verbally or visually. While they experience similar emotions and thoughts, their interpretations of that experience will be unique to themselves. Their world is a shared experience characterized by limited communication, at times producing chaotic effects, but also capable of generating spontaneous patterns of beauty.
I use both music and photography to try to capture events and relate them to emotions ad feelings. With photography in Vietnam, I wanted the viewer to question the relationship between the actual subject of the photograph and the environment the subject was photographed in. My Vietnam photographs reflect the many different emotional highs and lows that I experienced while in country.
Many artists who are not Vietnam veterans have expressed their views about Vietnam and the war by looking through a window they have never opened. That expression is legitimate and valuable. However, the conversation I hope to engage in, through photography and music, is from the heart of my experience, bringing the receptor through the glass and into the sea that is truth.