In his speech at the ANZAC Day service, Paul Haw had mentioned that his father had bought him a camera when he was called up for National Service in 1967. “Dad had said, they are taking Minolta cameras to the moon”, and so we went to Bendigo and bought one and I took mine to Vietnam, he said.
During his time he captured on film fellow soldiers at work and Vietnamese villagers and their daily activities. From that time he amessed a body-of-work of around 500 photographs and, with his wife Cathie, has put together 70 framed photographs in an exhibition ‘Vietnam framed’.
The exhibition is a collaborative undertaking between Wycheproof RSL sub-branch, Wycheproof Historical Society and Boort Development Committee. It is open at the Court House, High St, Wycheproof, Sunday to Friday until 7 May.
There are photographs of Vietnamese school children and children at work getting water from a well repaired by Australian soldiers, juxtaposed with himself on a Howitzer gun, Chinook and Huey helicopters, piles of shell casings, tangled barbed wire and other detritus of war. Each photograph is captioned and tells but a snippet of the story of men named Peter, Steve, Shorty and Jock; perspectives of war in the jungle, and village life in rural Vietnam.
He said the photos and captions and the work collating the exhibition were a release for him and helped him emotionally. This record of life has also helped families of Vietnam veterans. He recalled one family whose father had returned from the Vietnam War broken emotionally and spiritually. Paul said he had met the man’s daughter and was able to provide photos of his time in Vietnam to show her and her family that at one time he had been a happy man.
The Minolta camera is part of the exhibition, as too are letters saved by his mother. In opening the exhibition Mr Haw said that he had received letters daily from his large extended family, he had 57 first cousins and 20 aunties who all wrote to him, but when evacuated from Vietnam he had burned all those letter. When he arrived home his mother presented him with a package, she had kept every letter he had written to her.