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Philip Jones Griffiths
Born February 18, 1936(1936-02-18)
Rhuddlan, Wales
Died March 19, 2008 (aged 72)
London, England
Nationality UK
Occupation Photojournalism
Magnum Photos

Philip Jones Griffiths (18 February 1936 - 19 March 2008) was a Welsh photojournalist known for his coverage of the Vietnam war.

The first picture of his I ever saw was during a lecture at the Rhyl camera club. I was 16 and the speaker was Emrys Jones. He projected the picture upside down. Deliberately, to disregard the subject matter to reveal the composition. It's a lesson I've never forgotten.

—Philip Jones Griffiths on his idol, and later coworker, Henri Cartier-Bresson.[1][2]

Not since Goya has anyone portrayed war like Philip Jones Griffiths.

—Henri Cartier-Bresson on Philip Jones Griffiths[1]



Jones Griffiths was born in Rhuddlan, to Joseph Griffiths, who supervised the local trucking service of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, and Catherine Jones, Rhuddlan's district nurse, who ran a small maternity clinic at home.[3] He studied pharmacy in Liverpool and worked in London as the night manager at the Piccadilly branch of Boots The Chemist, while also working as a part-time photographer for the Manchester Guardian.[4]

His first photograph was of his friend, taken with the family Brownie in a rowboat off Holyhead.[2]

Jones Griffiths never married, saying it was a "bourgeois" notion, but that he had had "significant" relationships.[5][2] Survived by Fenella Ferrato, Katherine Holden, Donna Ferrato, and Heather Holden, he died from cancer on March 19, 2008.[6][7][8][1]

Journalist John Pilger wrote in tribute to Philip soon after his death: "I never met a foreigner who cared as wisely for the Vietnamese, or about ordinary people everywhere under the heel of great power, as Philip Jones Griffiths. He was the greatest photographer and one of the finest journalists of my lifetime, and a humanitarian to match…. His photographs of ordinary people, from his beloved Wales to Vietnam and the shadows of Cambodia, make you realise who the true heroes are. He was one of them."[9]


He started work as a full-time freelance photographer in 1961 for the Observer, travelling to Algeria in 1962. He arrived in Vietnam in 1966, working for the Magnum agency.[8]

Magnum found his images difficult to sell to American magazines, as they concentrated on the suffering of the Vietnamese people and reflected his view of the war as an episode in the continuing decolonisation of former European possessions. However, he was eventually able to get a scoop that the American outlets liked: photographs of Jackie Kennedy vacationing with a male friend in Cambodia. The proceeds from these photos enabled him to continue his coverage of Vietnam and to publish Vietnam Inc. in 1971. The book had a major influence on American perceptions of the war, and became a classic of photojournalism.[10][11] The South Vietnamese president, Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, was less impressed, remarking "Let me tell you there are many people I don’t want back in my country, but I can assure you Mr. Griffiths name is at the top of the list."[4]

In 1973, he covered the Yom Kippur War. He then worked in Cambodia from 1973 to 1975. In 1980, he became the president of Magnum, a position he then held for five years. In 2001 Vietnam Inc. was reprinted with a foreword by Noam Chomsky. Subsequent books have included Dark Odyssey, a collection of his best pictures, and Agent Orange, dealing with the impact of the US defoliant Agent Orange on postwar generations in Vietnam.

Philip Jones Griffiths Foundation for the Study of War

After becoming aware of his terminal condition, Jones Griffiths launched a foundation to preserve his archives. His daughters helm the foundation, which is currently without a permanent home.[12]



  1. ^ a b c Franklin, Stuart (2008-03-19). "Philip Jones Griffiths 1936-2008". Magnum Photos.  
  2. ^ a b c Brockway, Anthony (2004-06-01). "Philip Jones Griffiths, an interview". Retrieved 2008-07-15.  
  3. ^ Jones Griffiths, Philip (1996). Dark Odyssey. Aperture. ISBN 978-0893816452.   The introduction by Murray Sayle continues "In the Welsh manner, Philip uses the name of both his parents, to distinguish himself from all the other Joneses and Griffithses of the neighbourhood."
  4. ^ a b Harrison, Graham (2008-05-03). "Philip Jones Griffiths". Photo Histories. Retrieved 2008-07-15.  
  5. ^ Hopkinson, Amanda (2008-03-24). "Obituary: Philip Jones Griffiths". Guardian.,,2267726,00.html. Retrieved 2008-07-14.  
  6. ^ Winslow, Donald R. (2008-03-19). "Philip Jones Griffiths Dies In London". NPPA. Retrieved 2008-07-14.  
  7. ^ Kennedy, Randy (2008-03-20). "Philip Jones Griffiths, Photographer, Dies at 72". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-03.  
  8. ^ a b Agence France-Presse (2008-03-19). "War photographer Philip Jones Griffith dies at 72". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 2008-07-15.  
  9. ^ Pilger, John. A tribute to Philip Jones Griffiths, who understood war & peace, & people. March 26, 2008. Accessed July 2008.
  10. ^ "Vietnam Inc., Part I: A Photo-Journey Through the Villages, Fields, and Alleys of a Devastated Nation", Democracy Now!, 23 January 2002.
  11. ^ "Vietnam Inc., Part II: A Photo-Journey through the Villages, Fields, and Alleys of a Devastated Nation", Democracy Now!, 24 January 2002.
  12. ^ "Welsh home for PJG's archive?". British Journal of Photography. 2008-04-23. Retrieved 2008-07-14.  

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