Issue #142  3/25/2008
Philip Jones Griffiths Dies, Leaving An Anti-War Legacy

Veteran photojournalist Philip Jones Griffiths passed away last week. Giffith's astonishing coverage of wars and strife once caused Henri Cartier-Bresson to write, "Not since Goya has anyone portrayed war like Philip Jones Griffiths." Griffiths' 1971 publication "Vietnam Inc." led Magnum's Stuart Franklin to say that it "is arguably the most articulate and compelling anti-war statement made by any photojournalist ever."

The following information was adapted from Magnum's biography on Griffiths. Born in Rhuddlan, Wales, Philip Jones Griffiths studied pharmacy in Liverpool and worked in London while photographing part-time for the Manchester Guardian. In 1961 he became a full-time freelancer for the London-based Observer. He covered the Algerian War in 1962, and then moved to Central Africa. From there he moved to Asia, photographing in Vietnam from 1966 to 1971.

His book on the war, "Vietnam Inc.", crystallized public opinion and gave form to Western misgivings about American involvement in Vietnam. One of the most detailed surveys of any conflict, "Vietnam Inc." is also an in-depth document of Vietnamese culture under attack.

An associate member of Magnum since 1966, Griffiths became a member in 1971. In 1973 he covered the Yom Kippur War and then worked in Cambodia between 1973 and 1975. In 1977 he covered Asia from his base in Thailand. In 1980 Griffiths moved to New York to assume the presidency of Magnum, a post he held for a record five years.

Griffiths' assignments, often self-engineered, took him to more than 120 countries. He continued to work for Life and Geo on stories such as Buddhism in Cambodia, droughts in India, poverty in Texas, the re-greening of Vietnam, and the legacy of the Gulf War in Kuwait.

In the email sent by Franklin about Giffiths' death, he said, "Philip enriched all our lives with his courage, his empathy, his passion, his wit and his wisdom; and for many he gave to photojournalism its moral soul. He died as he wanted so passionately that we should live--in peace. In his last days he was together with his loving family and friends at his side."