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[Photos] A Stroll Around 1969-1970 Saigon

Take a stroll through Saigon in 1969-1970 thanks to these black and white photos.

A native of New York, I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on May 1, 1969. During basic training I was selected to attend the Defense Language Institutes’ English language instructor course, which lasted six weeks. That was one facet of then-President Nixon’s “Vietnamization” program.

In September of 1969, I was sent to Vietnam to begin a one-year tour of duty as an English instructor. Along with my colleagues, I worked five hours a day, six days a week, with Sundays off. Prior to enlisting I had been working as an apprentice in a professional photography studio.

The short daily working hours afforded me the opportunity to roam around Saigon and environs shooting approximately 1,500 black and white and color photos. The film was purchased at the Cholon PX on Nguyen Tri Phuong Street. The black-and-white film was developed in a makeshift darkroom created by blocking out the window in the bathroom of my room and sealing the door as well.

Unfiltered 90-degree (32oC) Saigon tap water was used in film processing and subsequent print-making. Prints were made using a small 35mm-only enlarger placed on the toilet seat, while developing trays were placed in the shower pan. My former boss back in “The World,” a G. I. slang for the USA, sent me photo paper and chemicals on a regular basis.

After having one roll of color film developed here, with very poor results, I started sending my color film to Australia for processing using Kodak yellow film mailers. Fortunately, only one roll was lost. All the black-and-white negatives and color slides are now safely stored in a fire-proof safe in a friend’s home in the US, while all of the black-and-white negatives have been scanned and digitized.

What you see here are some of the fruits of my labors, and I hope you enjoy them. After returning to the US in September of 1970 and being discharged from the Air Force eight months later, I took a few years "off" as a hippie before embarking on a photographic career. I retired from commercial photography in May of 2016 at the age of 70 and moved to Vietnam in March of 2017. I plan to spend the rest of my days traveling around Southeast Asia shooting personal work.

A group of women wait for a bus in the rain.

Looking down Le Loi Street towards the Opera House.

Sidewalk naps were also popular decades ago.

The since-removed statue of General Tran Nguyen Han in front of Ben Thanh Market.

An old Saigon taxi.

Young women in áo dài enjoy a snack on the sidewalk.

Boats docked on the Saigon River.

A mid-day nap.

Women selling fruit on the pavement.

A street scene from Saigon nearly 50 years ago.

Two young women in áo dài and nón lá walk down a path.

A funeral procession travels down a Saigon street.

The Vietnam History Museum, located inside the Saigon Zoo.

Children playing with a bike.

A rainy day at the Quach Thi Trang roundabout in front of Ben Thanh Market.

Saigoneers walk through the rain.

Cyclo drivers waiting for passengers in the rain.

A young woman stands in a doorway.

Stylish young people ride motorbikes through Saigon.

A portrait of the author.

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