New York

An-My Lê

Murray Guy

War photographers have to a certain extent always staged their shots. Even the earliest known examples of the genre were contrived; American Civil War lensmen like Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner weren’t above scattering a few cannonballs or moving bodies to more dramatic settings. As Susan Sontag tells it in Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), it wasn’t until the Vietnam War that we could be reasonably certain that photographs from the front weren’t setups: Images like the famous shot of children fleeing a napalm attack were simply too horrific to have been engineered, and the horrors therein were confirmed by the competing medium of television.

An-My Lê left Vietnam as a teenager in 1975. In her series “Small Wars,” 1999–2002, she worked with reenactors in Virginia and North Carolina to stage battles from the Vietnam War. For her latest, ongoing project, “29 Palms,” 2003–, Lê has

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