British, b. l936
Born in Rhuddlan, Wales, Jones Griffiths studied pharmacy in Liverpool and practiced in London while photographing part time for the Manchester Guardian. In 1961 he became a full-time freelancer for the London Observer. He covered the Algerian War in 1962 then became based in Central Africa, moving from there to Asia. He photographed in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968. He went back to Vietnam in 1970 and became famous for his 1971 book on the war, Vietnam Inc.
Out of print in a few weeks, Vietnam Inc. crystallized public opinion and was essential in shaping Western misgivings about the US involvement in Vietnam and ultimately helping to bring the war to an end. As television had taken over the task of day-to-day news transmission, Jones Griffiths, one of the very few photographers with his or her own agenda, was able to concentrate on conditions behind the headlines, and Vietnam Inc. is also a documentary study of Vietnamese folk life. Although Jones Griffiths's sympathies were with indigenous forces, his argument was with the de-humanizing powers of technology and its bureaucratic apologists. The outcome of three years of reporting, Vietnam Inc. is one of the most detailed surveys of any conflict, and its effectiveness depends also on the author's personal layout and commentaries, both matter of fact and darkly ironic.
An associate member of Magnum since 1967, Jones Griffiths became a member in 1971. In 1973 he covered the Yom Kippur War and then worked in Cambodia (1973-75).In 1977 he was based in Thailand, covering Asia.
In 1980, Griffiths moved to New York to assume the presidency of Magnum, a post which he held for a record five years.
Jones Griffiths's photographs have appeared in every major magazine in the world, and his assignments, often self-given, led him to over 120 countries in all five continents. Griffiths, who has exhibited widely in the US and Europe, continues to work for Life and Géo on such stories as Buddhism in Cambodia, Drought in India, Poverty in Texas, The Re-greening of Vietnam, and the legacy of the War in Kuwait.
His movie work includes a documentary for the BBC on the descendants of the HMS Bounty living on Pitcairn Island, a film about the effects of strip-mining on a valley in South Wales and a film about the Khao-I-Dang Refugee camp in Thailand for the United Nations' High Commission for Refugees. His BBC film, The Ho Chi Minh Trail, was shown on PBS in 1990 and his most recent, A Welsh Eye, aired in Britain in 1991.
Through his photographs, texts and films, Griffiths continues to reflect on the unequal relationship between technology and humanity. His lifetime's work is summed up in his recent Dark Odyssey. His idea is that we - or some of us - once lived in harmony with our surroundings but that alienated interests duped us in the end. Human stupidity always catches Jones Griffiths's eye, but, faithful to the ethics of the Magnum founders, he still believes in human dignity and in the capacity for improvement.
Vietnam Inc., 1971
Philip Jones Griffiths: una vision retrospectiva (1952-1988), 1992
Dark Odyssey, 1996
Feature on Agent Orange at Digital Journalist