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October 21, 2016

Lo Manh Hung, the Story of the Youngest Photo Journalist in South Vietnam, 1968

One of the most unusual sights in a city overflowing with strange sights is the slight figure of a 12 year old Vietnamese boy darting into the street battles, scrambling across the rubble, deliberately heading for trouble.

18 Feb 1968, Saigon; Vietnam - Young Lo Manh Hung wanders among a group of refugees in Saigon February 18th looking for picture possibilities. At the age of 12, he’s probably the youngest photo journalist in South Vietnam. For two years now he has been helping his father, a veteran freelance photographer, cover the dramatic and sometimes violent events of this war torn city. (Bettmann/CORBIS)

While other youngsters flee danger, he looks for it. He is a professional photographer and he has a thick stack of published pictures to prove it.

Not much taller than four feet and only a smidgin over 60 pounds, bright eyed Lo Manh Hung wears his cameras like a badge.

He has been taking pictures professionally more than two years, since his locally well known father, Lo Vinh, was injured covering street rioting and needed help in his work.

With the father, who is 58 years old, the pair form a team boasting Saigon’s oldest and youngest working photographers. The father, a cameraman for 44 years, was born in North Vietnam, studied art and literature at a French university, but turned to his hobby of photography for income when times got tough.

For years he traveled, taking pictures throughout Indochina, and didn’t marry until he was 43. A few months later he and his bride fled the Communists in the North and came to Saigon.

Lo Manh Hung and his father arise everyday at 5am. To be early on the job and usually don’t finish until after 9pm.That’s 365 days a year, the father sighs.

In less hectic times, the pair scoot about the city on a motorbike to cover official government affairs, weddings, airport arrivals, parties, fires, whatever may make news.

Lo Manh Hung helps with the film processing and printing, then turns messenger salesman, pedding fresh prints to local newspapers and foreign news agencies.

His small, slim frame and child’s face are both the hindrance and help in his work.

Police invariably stop him as he tries to pass through official gates, demanding “Where do you think you’re going?”

He explains calmly he is the son of photographer Lo Vinh, produces his credentials and cameras, and usually continues on his way.

But not always - and that, he says, is his biggest problem: convincing police he really is a working news photographer.

The advantage of his size has been seen often by the Saigon press corps. As photographers jam together, elbowing, pushing, clawing for the right picture angle of an arriving dignitary or a crowded news conference, who squirms through? Lo Manh Hung.

He snakes through a crowd on all fours, emerges in the front of the lot and clicks happily away with the best angle of all. He is so short he never blocks those behind and they let him be.

(The Southeast Missourian Feb 14 1968: Boy Photographer Seeks Danger as Others Flee - John Nance)


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