Dirck Halstead

Interview by Svetlana Bachevanova

Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, 1996

SB. Did you ever experience censorship of your work? If yes how did you deal with it?

DH. No.

SB. What is the difference between being a photojournalist then and now? Do you think photojournalism is dead?

DH. In the glory days of photojournalism, coverage of stories were often assigned by major magazines and newspapers that had almost unlimited amounts of money to spend. That means travel around the world for the photographers and logistical support in far flung areas. Photographers would travel with wads of cash in their pockets thanks to advances. All of that is gone now. Today's photographers are like hobos. They somehow manage to get from place to place, but it is on very tight budgets. And there is rarely a payoff.magazines and newspapers have no space to devote to in depth stories. Even TV is hurting. The evolution of the backpack journalist takes place at the expense of a two or three person crew. News today on TV is told through talk shows. You don't have to send those people anywhere.

Dirck and the wounded Time reporter David Devoss at HWY 13

SB. I asked you to give me for this interview one of your favorite image and you sent me “Dirck and Devoss at HWY 13”.What is the story behind this image and why is so valuable for you?

DH. In the spring of 1972 I returned to Vietnam, after spending two years there for UPI in 1965 and 1966. This was the time of the North Vietnamese spring offensive as communist troops poured in the south. Time reporter David Devoss and I traveled 30 kilometers north of Saigon where ARVN troops were trying to hold the NVA at bay, a battle that lasted essentially in place for two more years.

I had walked nearly a mile into "no man's land" between the two sides, watching as South Vietnamese Rangers sat beside the road cooking their lunches over small fires, and occasionally returning North Vietnamese gun fire. As I looked North up Highway 13 I saw an object hurtling my way down the center of the road. As it passed me, I realized it was a wire guided missile, and watched as it impacted with a South Vietnamese tank that was turning on the road.

A few minutes later, our Vietnamese reporter found me to tell me that David Devoss, who had remained at the ARVN command post had been wounded. During the brief artillery exchange a rocket had hit Devoss, entering his chest through the webbing of his flack vest. At first look, he did not appear to badly wounded, since the gash in his side was small. However, it had done its damage, ripping into his lung. It wasn't until he started bleeding from the mouth that we realized he was mortally wounded.

Fortunately there were still med evacuation helicopters available, and we were able to get one directed to our position. I stayed with Devoss while we awaited the "dust off", which landed a few minutes later. It wasn't a moment too soon. Devoss was bleeding out at that point and just a few more minutes would have cost him his life.

SB. What is your favorite story you like to tell around what you call photographer's camp fire?

DH. My experience has been that photographers are reluctant to talk about their stories, unless they are giving lectures or writing books. Photographers are by nature self-centered and realize they are not going to impress their colleagues. The funny things are what get talked about.


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