Update:  GMT+7

Photobook in honor of ‘emissaries of peace’

After nearly three trips to Quang Tri Province in nine months, Ho Chi Minh City-based photographer Nguyen A, born in 1968, has released a photo book entitled 'Peace-Keeping Squad on the Land of Fire'.

The book provides vivid insights into the dangerous work and quiet sacrifice of those who detect and clear explosive remnants of war.

Photobook in honor of ‘emissaries of peace’

A striking photo in the picture book 'Peace-Keeping Squad on the Land of Fire' - Photo by: Nguyen A

Nine months of effort

The newly released book ‘Peace-Keeping Squad on the Land of Fire’ (in Vietnamese: Biệt đội giữ bình yên đất lửa) by photographer Nguyen A has drawn a spotlight. Holding the photo book in their hands, many readers can’t take their eyes off the scenes, stories and characters with whom they want to interact in the flesh.

“It took me nine months to create this photobook. This preparation period is filled with emotions, so I’m happy when everyone receives my brainchild,” said Nguyen A.

In Vietnam, the lensman is no stranger to photography enthusiasts. During his 35-year career, he has held 19 exhibitions and authored 18 photo books.

As his reputation has grown, Nguyen A has become more rigorous in his artistic creation. He puts great effort into each picture, even placing himself in danger. This has earned him great respect.

Traveling north and south, the photographer has set foot in Quang Tri Province several times. In 2008, he chose two natives of Quang Tri as the protagonists of the photo book series ‘They Have Lived This Way’ (in Vietnamese: I). When the photographer came into contact with one of them, who is a landmine victim, sadness welled up in him. He knew the war was a distant past, but its seeds of destruction remained in the ground here.

Deep down, the artist wishes that the pain called “landmine accidents” would disappear. “Later, when I learned that there are project officers and staff in Quang Tri who specialize in detecting and clearing ordnance for the people’s peaceful lives, I felt relieved. From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate and love them, and I want to make a photo book about them,” Nguyen A shared his feelings.

Arriving in Quang Tri on a pouring day, he was surprised to find the project officers and staff at work as usual. So, the photographer didn’t take a break either. He quickly turned the difficulty caused by the rain into an opportunity to prove his skills. The rain also gave Nguyen A deeper understanding of and feeling for the arduous work of the teams.

“Unlike the first trip, Quang Tri greeted me with 40 degrees Celsius heat on the second trip. Looking at the sweaty, sun- and wind-baked faces of Project RENEW/NPA officers and staff, I couldn’t contain my emotions. The third trip surged again as I had unforgettable experiences with them. I deeply admired their silent sacrifices, and I told myself to share with everyone what I had experienced, heard, seen and felt,” he recalled.

Honoring silent sacrifices

The exhibition of the photo book ‘Peace-Keeping Squad on the Land of Fire’, alongside another brainchild of photographer Nguyen A, took place on an early autumn day in Hanoi. A large number of local and foreign guests attended the event. Around 170 pictures were selected as the main material for the photo book, accompanied by touching stories and sharing of Project RENEW/NPA’s officers and staff in Vietnamese and English.

Photobook in honor of ‘emissaries of peace’

Photographer Nguyen A (first from right) took photos with the three guests from Project RENEW/NPA. Photo by: Nguyen A

The author was very glad to welcome the three guests from Project RENEW/NPA. They are Nguyen Thi Dieu Linh - NPA’s Program Manager in Project RENEW, Hoang Kim Chien - Leader of the Mobile Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team, and Phan Thi Thu Huong - Deputy Leader of the All-Women Battle Area Clearance Team. Earlier, Nguyen A had sent out an invitation to Quang Tri Province, hoping to give the public a chance to meet and talk with the people he calls “emissaries of peace”. “Every devotion and sacrifice deserve to be rewarded. I hope that the people quietly doing this arduous and life-threatening work will be recognized and honored somehow. That’s why I opened this exhibition,” the photographer said.

Because of this thought, the author stepped back at the event so that the audience could interact more with the guests, who were deeply moved by his consideration.

Dieu Linh sincerely thanked photographer Nguyen A for his dedication in capturing all the moments of her service and for inviting her to the exhibition. She also affirmed that it was the artist who helped many people know better about the work of the project teams.

During the meeting, Dieu Linh recounted an accident in the line of duty that robbed them of one of their respected team leaders. According to her, the officers and staff have always maintained solidarity and discipline by strictly following the organization’s procedures. However, this is still a highly dangerous job with potential hazards. Therefore, none of them is allowed to be careless and make mistakes that they have no chance to correct.

“It’s worth mentioning that no matter how careful we are, the danger rate for us still can’t be zero. After the death of a comrade, even though we were stupefied, we still tried to revive our spirits. We know that we need to be even more determined and continue our mission to safeguard Quang Tri against the impact of ordnance and explosives.”

The sharing of Dieu Linh and her comrades made photographer Nguyen A and many viewers very emotional. Everyone expressed their great admiration when they learned about the figures related to the work of neutralizing the effects of bombs and landmines in Quang Tri Province. It was agreed that these dedications deserve to be recognized as peacetime feats, and the unsung heroes deserve to be honored.

Jenna Duong - Quang Hiep

Jenna Duong - Quang Hiep

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