Magnum Photographer Philip Jones Griffiths Dies The celebrated Magnum photographer is best known for his detailed study of the effects of the Vietnam War. He was 72.
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Magnum Photographer Philip Jones Griffiths Dies

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Magnum Photographer Philip Jones Griffiths Dies

Magnum Photographer Philip Jones Griffiths Dies

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Finally today, an obituary for the files of our occasional photography series Photo Op. The photojournalist Philip Jones Griffiths died yesterday at his home in London. He was 72. He was born in Wales. He worked as a pharmacist in London and asked for night hours so he could take pictures during the day.

He was quickly good enough to get hired at newspapers. He went to cover war in Algeria, in Central Africa, and then in Vietnam. His pictures did tell stories - stark, compelling, plain and difficult. He made trouble. He got a reputation.

Mr. PHILIP JONES GRIFFITHS (Photojournalist): Emotional was the buzzword, the word that really condemned somebody in terms of being totally unreliable and really not to be listened to.

CHADWICK: He published a book of his photographs, "Vietnam, Inc.," emotionally and visually powerful images of American military might in a poor Third World country. He joined the famous by-invitation-only photo cooperative Magnum. Eventually he ran it for several years, a longer tenure than anyone else had managed. But he also continued taking pictures in more than 100 countries, and you could usually tell that the man behind the camera had a conscience.

Mr. GRIFFITHS: Journalists should be, by their very nature, anarchists, people who want to point out things that are not generally approved of. Any intelligent society would somehow give special privilege to critics. It's by criticizing society that humanity has made progress.

CHADWICK: On assignment for NPR 20 years ago, just as Vietnam was re-opening itself to the West, I ran into Philip Jones Griffiths in a Saigon hotel. I didn't know his full story then, but I could tell he had one. The things that he had seen had stayed with him and were still with him. He was haunted by pictures.

Mr. GRIFFITHS: Virtually the whole of society believes in what they believe not by direct experience but by what they've been told. We photographers are in this exalted, privileged position of actually going out to find out for ourselves, and that's why we're so dangerous, because we were there. We saw what happened.

CHADWICK: Magnum photographer Philip Jones Griffiths died yesterday in London at age 72. You can see his work at the musarium.com, and we borrowed his interview clips from that site. There's a link to at npr.org.

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