Th3 Booksigning with Michael Greenlar
September 15, 2011 - 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
The story of the Hmong people in Laos is a story of survival. Recruited first by the French, and then by the Americans, to be the front line of defense against the North Vietnamese army, their territory became a fierce battleground of the Viet Nam War. The United States’ covert bombing campaign from 1964 to 1973 gave Laos the distinction of being the most bombed country in the history of warfare.
Photojournalist Mike Greenlar traveled through seven airports under the guise of a tourist in order to reach Xieng Khoung Province. Every return trip, he brought along the prints from the last visit and a Polaroid camera to share his pictures with his subjects. Though he’s admittedly drawn to people without a voice, the inspiration for Greenlar’s work is often “just something that happens. Each trip you come away with a different part of the story.”
Mike made 10 trips to Laos between 2000 and 2009 to document the lives the Hmong were fashioning in two resettlement villages. There they continue to farm land rife with unexploded cluster bombs and other munitions. This story helps us imagine the physical reality of the Hmong people’s lives in a land dotted with the remains of over two million tons of bombs dropped throughout Laos during the war in Vietnam. It also tells of the resourcefulness of a people who rely on each other, and on those very bombs, for their livelihood.
From blacksmithing to rituals, Mike saw a lot in those trips. The legacy of the “secret” bombings of Laos takes many forms and offers many stories. In this collection of painfully yet beautifully rendered black & white photographs, he shares some of them.