Several years ago I was talking to my friend Glenn about the protests during the 1968 convention and the war in Vietnam itself. We always had lively debates and with our varied ages and backgrounds (me having been in the infantry), we agreed more often than not. One day we’re hanging out and he hands me a box of negatives. On first look, it was a dated box, probably from the 70s, but anyone who has ever held a box of negs knows that they are transmitted in any number of vehicles, as long as they’re safe. Along with the box came a story, and a very interesting one at that. During his heyday of protesting, a young man had bestowed this box of negatives to someone and he bestowed it to another. After a long and winding history of changing hands, it finally landed with my friend Glenn with the idea that some of the images in there could be used to help with the protests against the war in Vietnam. He gave them a cursory glance, found nothing of interest and shelved the box, where it sat for almost 40 years.
Fast forward to 2005. With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan well underway, we had many interesting discussions that led to photography of the aforementioned conflicts and lo, the dust covered box of mysterious negatives came off the shelf and landed in my hands. That night, I dug out my light table and loupe and figured I’d see images of rice farming, water buffalo and some children. I gingerly opened the first handmade negative sleeve and after a brief look, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was witnessing nothing less than one mans entire year during his tour with the 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One) in Vietnam and everything that went with it.
These are the unknowns, the brave and the fearful. This is not their story, but merely a frozen fraction of a second. These are just a few 35mm film scans, most of these have never been seen, and probably have stayed in their sleeves since they day they were developed in country.
All photographs © Anthony Rostron