Requiem and Dickey’s Demise


Images taken from the book titled Requiem: By the Photographers Who Died in Vietnam and Indochina.

Dickey Chapelle was an American photojournalist that was known for her work as a war correspondent during World War II and Vietnam, well known for her strong bond with the US Marines whom she was posted with for the battle of Iwo Jima by National Geographic, she also stayed with the Marines for the battle of Okinawa and later died with the Marines whilst on patrol in Vietnam on Operation Black Ferret the Lieutenant in front of her kicked a tripwire boobytrap, consisting of a mortar shell with a hand grenade attached to the top of it. Chapelle was hit in the neck by a piece of shrapnel which severed her carotid artery; she died soon after. Her last moments were captured in a photograph by Henri Huet.[4] Her body was repatriated with an honor guard consisting of six Marines, and she was given full Marine burial. She became the first female war correspondent to be killed in Vietnam, as well as the first American female reporter to be killed in action.

Chapelle's War painting by Oliver smith

Chappelle’s War painting by Oliver smith


One of my favorite stories about Dickey Chapelle was when she first arrived on beaches of Iwo Jima, she left a senior ranking soldier in the relative safety of a sand dune and scrambled to the top to have a look, she turned to the man and quizickly asked something like “what’s with all the flies?” the soldier in complete disbelief replies something like “they ain’t flies they’re bullets”.

Requiem A book of photographers that were killed in the Vietnam war.

Requiem A book of photograph of the photographers that were killed in the Vietnam war.

Even though Requiem is not a pleasant book I found thoroughly engaging, it brings up all sorts of feelings and realisations about war that defy my fascination with the subject.

I chose to paint a portrait of Dickey Chapelle based on the pictures found in the book Requiem. There is something very cinematic almost unreal about the portrait photo of Dickey, photographers of the Vietnam war tended to find beauty and style within complete horror of the war as many war artists do, which ultimately creates an unavoidable escape from the harsh realities of waring, asking the question why some of us find death so fascinating and attractive.

Dickey Chapelle's Casualty-Card

Dickey Chapelle’s Casualty-Card

I also have a fascination with the casualty cards, the language used makes them more intriguing – very matter of fact and precise, usually the cards would include hand written edits that would make better sense of the events that occurred, all of which had to record the final moments of a person’s life on such a small piece of paper.

Between the height of the French Indochina War in the fifties and the fall of Phnom Penh and Saigon in 1975, 135 photographers from all sides of the conflict are recorded as missing or having been killed. This book is a memorial to those men and women, and in many cases it includes the last photographs they took.

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