Martin Tucker, the author of Vietnam Photographs From North Carolina Veterans – The Memories They Brought Home, served in the US Navy during the Vietnam era. Prior to his military service, Martin was a business major at Winston-Salem Business College and then attended Wingate College. After his discharge, Martin began a career as a professional photographer. He also used his creative talents as a documentary filmmaker. His documentary, Patty: This is My Normal, about a hobo from Montana who was passing through, was screened at the 2011 RiverRun International Film Festival to sold out audiences. For the past 15 years, Martin has taught photography and photojournalism at Summit School.
Vietnam Photographs From North Carolina Veterans – The Memories They Brought Home is a collection of 148 photographs, taken by the US military from all branches who served in the Vietnam War and includes commentary from the veterans in their own words. “Based on my research as well as research conducted by my publisher, this is the first time a book has been published of photographs by Vietnam veterans,” said Martin. “This book is a way to give back to the men and women of my generation who never got that parade when they came home from Vietnam.”
The project originally began as a black and white photography project for a class at the Sawtooth Center for Visual Art. The intent was to share what the Vietnam War was really like from the veterans’ points of view. As most veterans and their families can attest, they seldom shared their experiences. It quickly became apparent that this project was more than just a picture display. Ultimately, the project became a national traveling exhibition, A Thousand Words: Photographs by Vietnam Veterans, that is now in the permanent collection of the NC Museum of History.
The guidelines that Martin developed for the original project and the book were clear – all branches of service would be represented; photos of battle and conflict situations would be treated respectfully. The exhibit would show the Vietnamese people as they went about their daily lives, the children, especially the orphans, and their plight as a result of war, as well as the beauty of the Vietnam countryside.
“Although my publisher and I agreed on the title ‘North Carolina Veterans,’ the images and comments are universal and could come from Vietnam veterans anywhere in the US,” said Martin. “And, finally, when I tried to decide if a photo would be part of the book, I had one fundamental question, would a Vietnam veteran look at the image and say, ‘That’s the way it was…I never could say it, but that photo says it for me.’ If the answer was ‘yes,’ the image stayed in the book.”
Gathering the commentary to accompany each photo in the book created its own challenge. Diana Greene, a teacher at Arts Based Elementary School, was a project committee member and felt that more detailed information was needed. As a result, the contributing veterans were individually interviewed to get quotes about their photos.
Martin shared that one photo in particular stood out as an iconic image of the conditions that veterans experienced. The picture is from a Winston-Salem vet of a soldier covered in mud; he had just crossed a river with waist-deep mud. That picture was part of the original exhibit and the Museum of History in Raleigh used it as the exhibit entrance in 2004.
Arcadia Publishing & The History Press based in Charleston, SC releasedVietnam Photographs From North Carolina Veterans – The Memories They Brought Home on August 12, 2019. The book will be available wherever books are sold, as well as Amazon.com and Good Reads.com.
Martin recently had a book signing at the Sawtooth School for Visual Art, where the veterans who provided photos and commentary for the book were in attendance. Martin will have a booth at the upcoming 2019 Festival of Books and Authors on Saturday, September 7th, in downtown Winston-Salem. Whether you’re a history buff, actively serving or a veteran, Vietnam Photographs From North Carolina Veterans – The Memories They Brought Homeis a testament to the valor of North Carolina’s service people and provides a look at what they experienced from their own photos and memories.