Picks and Pans Review: Vietnam Veterans Parade, Chicago—1986

updated 04/20/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/20/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

photographs by Tom Conroy, text by Kris Colt

It is a comment on the enduring impact of Vietnam that the march the book chronicles—which took place 11 years after the war ended—drew an estimated 200,000 participants, with another 350,000 spectators. (It followed by a year a similar demonstration in New York; Vietnam marches are being held next month in both Houston and Los Angeles.) The book is, in fact, more valuable as a historical document than as a photographic art work. Conroy, 44, a Santa Fe, N.Mex.-based photographer, included far too many pictures, too often taken from the identical perspective. The reproduction isn't great either; one of the most striking images in the book, a man in jungle fatigues holding a little boy's hand, is overexposed, making it hard to read a sign on the man's back; "Next time, we send the politicians and their children—maybe then there will be no more wars!!!" Too many pages look like something from a high school yearbook, produced with the main intent of including as many people as possible. Still, Conroy captured a number of powerful scenes, from legless veterans propelling themselves on platforms to their former commander Gen. William C. Westmoreland striding purposefully down LaSalle Street. Perhaps most striking is the way Conroy's pictures and the brief text by Colt, 38, a Vietnam vet, capture the defiant spirit of the occasion. The New York and Chicago marches seemed to represent a catharsis for society in general but for the veterans most particularly. The men and women in these pictures are not people petitioning for absolution; they are proclaiming a right to, if not compassion, at least respect. These are the victory parades that never were. (Nam Vets Publishing Co., Room 791, 142 Lincoln Ave., Santa Fe, N.Mex. 87501; $16 for veterans, $22 for nonveterans)

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