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Agent Orange: A Terrible Legacy

Catherine Karnow | Viet Nam

Looking in the mirror, it is unclear how Ly regards herself. Nevertheless, she takes great care with her appearance, wearing the same pretty (faux) pearl bracelet and necklace each day. Danang, Vietnam. Nguyen Thi Ly, 9, is afflicted with diseases associated with Agent Orange, passed down from her grandfather, who was a soldier in the Vietnam War. Danang, Vietnam.
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During the Vietnam War, the U.S military sprayed some 12 million gallons of the Agent Orange defoliant over Vietnam.  Now, almost four decades later, the toxic herbicide continues to have a devastating effect on thousands of Vietnamese people.  Passed down genetically, Agent Orange has caused various diseases and deformities in three generations of Vietnamese families.

This is the story of lives of two families who struggle with diseases associated with Agent Orange. While one family receives care and support, the other receives very little - both bearing a terrible burden.  Although the United States' government is finally addressing this issue, it is hoped that imminent funding will help more of the victims of Agent Orange.

This is the story of the lives of two families who struggle with diseases associated with Agent Orange. During the Vietnam War, the U.S military sprayed some 12 million gallons of the Agent Orange defoliant over Vietnam. Now, almost four decades later, the toxic herbicide continues to have a devastating effect on thousands of Vietnamese people. Passed down genetically, Agent Orange has caused various diseases and deformities in three generations of Vietnamese families. As an American, I feel a responsibility to expose this horrifying problem, and to help bring about real change. Through photography and the voices of the victims and their families, I know that we can bring much more support than now exists. In a more immediate way, I can see the way that my photographs bring a sense of affirmation to these individuals who are suffering in illness and isolation. I worked with the organization, Children of Vietnam, who help these families enormously. Quite simply, they address the specific needs of each child and each family.

 

I have been traveling and shooting since I was in high school. I grew up in Hong Kong and traveled with a camera since I was a small child.  Photography is my way of experiencing the world, experiencing life intensely, and preserving what is fleeting. It is also a way to show the suffering of others to bring about change in ways large and small. I do not aim to change the world through my photographs, but I know that I can make a difference, especially for individuals.

In July of this year, I traveled to Vietnam to document the lives of two families whose children are suffering from Agent Orange, used as chemical warfare during the Vietnam war. I was aware there were people still afflicted, but I had no idea the disease is still being passed down genetically and that babies are born every day with the disease. As an American, I feel a responsibility to expose this horrifying problem, and to help bring about real change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catherine Karnow

415-928-3232

catherinekarnow@yahoo.com

737 Alta Vista Rd., Mill Valley, CA 94941

 

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