“Not since Goya has anyone portrayed war like Philip Jones Griffiths,” said Magnum co-founder Henri Cartier-Bresson of the photographer and Magnum president. Philip Jones Griffiths’ work, however, captures a far wider portrait of the human condition than its penchant for conflict. While he photographed extreme violence in Vietnam and Algeria, Griffiths also documented ordinary life in Great Britain, the reality of living through The Troubles in Northern Ireland, and global communities with radically different ways of life to the one that he grew up with in his native Wales. The detailed texts and captions that accompany his images reveal astute observations about the mechanics of war, the Western psyche and collisions of ideology.

This young boy epitomizes our Welsh ambivalent love for both rugby and music. This place, Pant-y-Wean, was once, in the 1930s, voted the most Beautiful Village in South Wales, but it has long since been obliterated by opencast mining. When I asked what he was doing, he replied, 'My mother gave it to me to mend.

Paulo Coelho

Born in Rhuddlan, Wales, Philip Jones Griffiths studied pharmacy in Liverpool and worked in London while photographing part-time for the Manchester Guardian. In 1961, he became a full-time freelancer for the Observer, covering the Algerian War in 1962, in Central Africa, Asia and Vietnam.

Griffiths’ assignments, often self-engineered, have taken him to more than 120 countries. He continued to work for major publications such as Life and Geo on stories such as Buddhism in Cambodia, droughts in India, poverty in Texas, the re-greening of Vietnam, and the legacy of the Gulf War in Kuwait.

Philip Jones Griffiths died at home in West London on 19th March 2008.

© Philip Jones Griffiths | Magnum Photos

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