I am honored to feature Jessica Hines’ series, My Brothers War. I first saw it in 2010 during my jurying of Critical Mass. I found it so moving, so powerful I could not get it out of my head. Family histories are so complicated, and Jessica helps us through her beautiful images and poignant text to see we are all one family. In a post Vietnam era, in the midst of war now, she helps to bind the wounds of the past, hopeful to clarify our future.
I was also honored to have her be part of the gallery’s mammoth effort last year for Japan, Life Support. It was with her photographic contribution we were able to help in a significant way to aid the people of Japan recover from the Earthquake and Tsunami that hit its shores.
My Brothers War has received great acclaim. She received the Humanitarian Documentary Grant from the Pollux Awards, was part of the New York Photo Festival, received awards form Lens Culture, IPA, and many more. Her Blurb book, designed by Elizabeth Avedon, is a beautiful tribute to this compelling narrative.
Artist Statement: My Brother’s War
My older brother, Gary, was drafted into the army in 1967 during the Viet Nam War. Because our parents were ill and Gary was our caretaker, he made a request to Senator Stuart Symington seeking his help to avoid the draft order. A letter arrived on October 9th 1967, informing him “we regret that it could not have been more favorable to your wishes.” He was instructed by the Commanding Officer to report to the United States Army Overseas Replacement Station in Fort Lewis, Washington on October 31st for further assignment overseas. On November 4th, my brother arrived in Qui Nhon, Viet Nam. It was my eighth birthday. Because my parents could no longer care for me, I was sent to live with various relatives. Gary and I didn’t see one another for years.
Gary wrote many letters home while he was stationed in Viet Nam. Pictures arrived. Although in his letters he spoke of his living quarters and told us about the helicopters he flew into the front lines, he rarely discussed the dangers that he faced, so as not to cause us more worry.
Discharged from the army in December of 1969 with a “service connected nervous disorder”, we later came to know his problem as “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”. My pre-war brother, a normal and well-adjusted person had become, according to the Veterans Administration, 50% disabled. He took his own life ten years later.
More recently, while perusing Gary’s Vietnamese/English dictionary, I found it had hand-written declarations of love to him from a Vietnamese woman with whom he had fallen in love. I have since found information that confirmed their plans to marry. Gary returned to Viet Nam in early 1970 to live as a civilian. He never told any of us of his love. Gary’s reasons for leaving Viet Nam and returning home remain a mystery.
A memo pad found among my brother’s belongings reveals the names and addresses of his wartime friends. Thirty-five years after the war, with diligence, I have contacted some of them. Many of his friends are now deceased – having died young. I continue to make discoveries about wartime in Viet Nam as experienced by its veterans. The visual record of those experiences continues to unfold.
The drawings depicted in my images were made by my father, Lee Granger Hines, when he was a child during World War I.
In titling this series, My Brother’s War, I make reference to the other families worldwide who have lost and are presently losing loved ones in war.
Artist and storyteller Jessica Hines, uses the camera’s inherent quality as a recording device to explore illusion and to suggest truths that underlie the visible world. At the core of Hines’ work lies an inquisitive nature inspired by personal memory, experience and the unconscious mind. Hines began to cultivate her creative disposition early in life and her love of the arts led her to attend Washington University in St. Louis, where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Continuing to pursue her interests, she studied photography at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she received a Master of Fine Arts degree. Hines’ lectures and exhibitions have been included at Unitec New Zealand Mâori: Te Whare Wânanga o Wairaka, in Auckland, New Zealand, Huazhong University in Wuhan, China, Sai Gon Thanh Pho Mo/Saigon Open City Gallery in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam, Galleria de Artes Plasticas, Universidad Veracruzana in Xalapa, Mexico, GoEun Museum of Photography, Busan, Korea, China Pingyao International Photography Festival Pingyao, China, Fototage in Mannheim/ Ludwigshafen, Germany, College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, as well as at University of the Arts in Philadelphia and the Spéos Photographic Institute in Paris, France.