Gordon Ward Gahan Collection

Overview

Overview

Inducted into the United States Army in July 1966, Gahan trained at Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; and Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland before arriving in Vietnam in June 1967. His previous experience as a photojournalist determined his designation as an information specialist, later changed to still photographer.

During his year in Vietnam, Gahan documented diverse army activities, moving among units to photograph USO shows, military bases, field patrols, air medical teams, and battles. A small number of the images retain documentation, such as captions or a previous publication history, that gives a definite identification of the subjects. The rest are identifiable only in a more general manner. However, while the particulars may have been obscured over time, the photographic record still provides a glimpse of both Gahan’s experiences in the army and the photographic style that he would continue to develop in his postmilitary career.

To the extent that they contribute to the visual record of the war, Gahan’s Vietnam photographs, like those of all military cameramen, are valuable sources of information on specific—even if currently unidentified—people, places, and events. Yet their power and humanity resist relegation to mere documentation. Like those of the greatest combat photographers, Gahan’s pictures do more than simply provide a historical and visual record. It is a sense of the subject as an individual, a recognition of the person and his experience, and a sensitivity to story that defines much of his work.