General Giap s photographer

(No.11, Vol.3, Dec 2013 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)

Photographer Tran Tuan said that for the last 35 years, he had taken thousands of photos of General Vo Nguyen Giap – the legendary military strategist of Vietnam, who died in October. He also made 50 videos about the general’s activities.
Mr Tuan said that although he wanted to share his treasure with the public, he just sent a very small part to the press. Mr Tuan had wanted to organize photo exhibitions about the general, but the general did not agree. ‘Because the general was very modest, he did not want anyone to honor him. In 2010, when General Giap was 100 years old, I told him about my intention for the exhibition, and he was silent.’
Thinking that the general agreed, he organized exhibitions in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Dien Bien (where the general’s great globe-shaking victory took place) and Quang Binh (his home province).
After the exhibitions, Mr Tuan published the photo book ‘101 Khoảnh Khắc Về Vị Tướng Huyền Thoại Võ Nguyên Giáp’ (101 Moments of the Legendary General Vo Nguyen Giap, Hanoi Publisher, 2011). Now, he plans to print another photo book about the general.
Tran Tuan majored in photography, and graduated with a degree from the University of Journalism in 1968. Tran Tuan started his career as a photo reporter for Vietnam News Agency. After the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, he was assigned to report on General Giap’s visit to the south.
In 1978, he was assigned to follow the general’s visit to Quang Ninh province. Since then, whenever the general took trips, General Giap usually asked Mr Tuan to go along with him.
Following the general to many places and activities such as visiting the old battlefields, paying tribute to his former soldiers, giving talks to the public, talking to students, going on vacation, receiving leaders from all over the world, and taking trips abroad, Tuan had many kinds of photos of the General from many different angles.
Turning page by page of the photo book ‘101 Moments of the Legendary General Vo Nguyen Giap’, Tran Tuan said: ‘I have many photos of typical and unique moments of General Giap, which many other reporters don’t have.’
‘For example, in order to take photos of the ceremony before lowering his coffin into the ground, I had to spent hours concealed in the swathes on the hill while 400 reporters were stopped by security and stood at the foot of the hill.’

Photographer Tran Tuan
Photo provided by Tran Tuan

Tran Tuan said that he passionately loved his job, thanks to the inspiration he got from General Giap. The general once told him that if he pursued the job, he had to put his whole heart into it and had confidence in himself. ‘As I admire and respect the general, every time I took photos of him, I feel like a son taking photos of his father.’
‘I was also loved by the general and was treated as a family member of his. Thanks to his affection, I could visit his home and office regularly. I was invited to have meals with the general many times,’ Tuan said.
‘After many years of being in the close contact with the general, I see that he was an extraordinary person, yet he is simple, benevolent, virtuous and friendly.’

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