Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Photography Book: "Dickey Chapelle Under Fire"

Photography Book: Dickey Chapelle Under Fire: photographs by the first American female war correspondent killed in action by John Garofolo, 2015, 9780870207181

I don't recall how I first heard of Chapelle. Maybe she was written about in Dispatches by Michael Herr. Maybe I saw her in another Vietnam history. Maybe I read a mention as part of Wisconsin history. Anyway.

Chapelle grew up in the Milwaukee suburbs and was fascinated with airplanes. She earned a scholarship to MIT but spent so much time at the local air fields of the Coast Guard and Army that she flunked out. Chapelle went to Florida to live with an aunt and started working as a journalist. She was hired to write copy for an airliner based in NYC and met he future husband when taking a photography class.

During the war Chapelle gained journalist credentials and worked stateside and the Pacific. She lost her credentials after sneaking onto Okinawa and she and her husband traveled around the world on assignments. They did a lot of photography for humanitarian charities.

After her 1953 divorce Chapelle continued to work overseas and visited numerous war zones including the Hugarian uprising and Cuba. She went to Vietnam in 1961. One of her most important photos was won Photograph of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association. That photo "was the first published photography proving that US advisors were actively engaging in combat operations."

Chappelle also wrote an autobio about her career, 1962's What's a Woman Doing Here?, that did so-so Chappelle had to take a woman's lower pay for many assignments and she kept taking assignments to Vietnam - which makes it sound like she was killed by sexism.

I suppose you can have some traction in making a "death by sexism" argument since her career chances would have been limited. But, she was a combat photographer and died from a booby trap in 1965. The buried explosives injured several Marines and cut her carotid and she bled out in a field.

1. Dang. I just discovered that Michael Herr died this past June. I don't think I heard that.
2. This is a WI Historical Society Press item I bought for work.

No comments: