Sawada Kyoichi: From Home to Battle Zone
September 9 ― December 25, 2017
Sawada Kyoichi / Getty Images, 1965
Sawada Kyoichi was born in the northern Japanese city of Aomori in 1936. He worked at the US military base in Misawa before heading to Indochina in 1965, with the war was ablaze. Through the years of steady escalation of the Vietnam War, Sawada photographed on the front lines until he was shot to death in 1970 at age 34. In those 5 years in the war zone, he produced numerous masterpieces and won international recognition. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for a group of photographs that included Flee to Safety, which captured Vietnamese people driven from their homes, struggling desperately to survive. The image confronted the world with the cruel reality of the battle zone.
This exhibition presents about 300 items, including previously unreleased photographs and original wire photos Sawada sent back from the battle. The photographs evoke both his homeland and the battle zones, crisscrossed by life and death. They allow us to examine the face of the Vietnam War that Sawada unflinchingly sought to convey. We hope it will offer an opportunity to contemplate the “American War.”


Sawada Kyoichi, 1966
Camera shop on the US military base in Misawa, 1958
Sawada Kyoichi Chronology

1936
Born in Aomori City, Aomori Prefecture.
1954
Graduates from Aomori High School.
1955 
While working at a camera shop on the US military base in Misawa, he starts serious photography.
1961
Moves to Tokyo to pursue a career in photography.
1965
Assigned to UPI’s Saigon bureau as a staff cameraman.
September, takes his signature photograph, Flee to Safety.
December, the photograph is awarded first prize at the World Press Photo contest.
1966
Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his photographs of the Vietnam War, including Flee to Safety.
Dusty Death and Carrying the Enemy are awarded first and second prize at the World Press Photo contest.
Wins the Camera Achievement Award by the US Camera for his Vietnam War photography.
1968
February, photographs in Hue during the Tet Offensive.
September, named photography chief at UPI’s Hong Kong bureau.
1970
Reassigned to UPI’s Saigon bureau.
May, on assignment in Cambodia, Sawada and Phnom Penh bureau chief Robert Miller are seized by Communist forces, but freed after being held for 8 hours.
October, on assignment in Cambodia, shot outside of Phnom Penh, dies at age 34.

Awarded the Robert Capa Gold Medal by the Overseas Press Club for his photographs from Cambodia in 1971.

The “American War” Sawada conveyed to the world


“I want to know what is real, and capture it”

| Key Points to the Exhibition

Many early and unreleased photographs
The curators examined a tremendous number of documents, including some 23,000 shots on original film in the archives of Sawada Kyoichi’s wife. From these we produced new prints, including many unreleased photographs. In his amateur-era Aomori photographs of the Misawa Airbase and landscapes of the area, we encounter the gap between the gaudy life on the base and scenes of Aomori, revealing many facets of the land that gave birth to the combat cameraman Sawada. The unreleased photographs from Vietnam and Cambodia do not just reflect images of the Americans he accompanied into battle. In the expressions of captured suspects and soldiers from the National Liberation Front, we can see Sawada’s strong commitment to showing the people whose lives were thrown into dangerous chaos in the “American War” on Asian soil.

Hue during the Tet Offensive
When the Tet Offensive began in 1968, Sawada was the first to photograph on the battlefront. Many consider his series on this pitched battle the best work of his career. He photographed over the course of a month, from the start of the battle to its conclusion. The sequential shots convey the power and tension of battle zone photography that are exhibited in the form of large panels. The photographer Kitajima Keizo supervised the production of the inkjet prints for the exhibition.
US military base in Misawa, 1955-61
16km south of Da Nang, 1967
Cambodia, 1967-70

Sequences of Sawada’s legacy photographs
The photographs Sawada left behind, having been used for UPI and other news reports, were stored in a disorganized state. The curators were able to reconstruct the order of the photographs based on the research, which the exhibition presents as continuous sequences. This allows us to examine how the cameraman moved and made judgments in the intensity of the battlefield, as well as his camera techniques.
US military base in Misawa, 1955-61
Hue, 1968

Hue, 1968
“If you’re there, you can take good photographs”


|Related Events
● Talk Event “Sawada Kyoichi’s ‘American War’”
Ikui Eiko (Rikkyo University professor)× Takahashi Shigemi (Aomori Prefectural Museum of Art curator)× and Kohara Masashi (Izu Photo Museum researcher)

Date: September 16 (Sat.), 15:30—16:45
Place: Clematis no Oka Hall (2 min. from Izu Photo Museum)
Language: Japanese
An exhibition entry ticket for that day is required.
To attend: Please reserve places by telephone.
Tel: 055-989-8780 (museum closed Wednesdays)

● Curator’s Gallery Talks
Dates: 2nd and 4th Saturdays during the exhibition period, 14:15 (30 minute-talk)
Place: Izu Photo Museum
Language: Japanese
An entry ticket for that day is all that is required.
No reservation necessary. (Gather at the museum entrance counter.)

|Related Pubications
Sawada Kyoichi: From Home to Battle Zone
(Hatori Press, 2016)
Price: 4,500 plus tax
A4-size / Softcover / 296 pages (240 p. in color)
Essays by Ikui Eiko, Ishikawa Bunyo, Takahashi Shigemi and others


Organized by Izu Photo Museum
In collaboration with the Aomori Museum of Art
Imaging equipment provided by DNP Photo Imaging Japan Co., Ltd.
Academic collaboration with Aomori Chuo Gakuin University and the Ikui Eiko Research Lab at Rikkyo University