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“One hundred years of photography in the French Armed Forces”. Eighth episode. Pierre Ferrari, closer to the action in French Indochina.

In January 1954, Pierre Ferrari followed the fighting between the 3rd vietnamese parachute battalion (BPVN) and the Viet Minh independence forces in the Ban Hine Siu sector of Laos. In the heat of the action, as the parachute battalion suffered heavy losses, he produced images that make no attempt to sidestep the violence, injuries or death.

Le médecin lieutenant Patrice de Carfort, du 8e bataillon de parachutiste de choc (BPC), porte assistance au sergent Camille Lambert, mourant suite à l'explosion d'une mine à Cad Khe. CE dernier décède le 28 septembre 1953, Indochine, 24-28 septembre 1953 © ECPAD / Pierre Ferrari

A former Second World War soldier present in French Indochina since 1952, taking photographs for the Press Information Service (SPI), Pierre Ferrari always wanted to get as close to his subjects as possible, such as when he photographed the distress of a military doctor or a Vietnamese soldier carrying a machine gun in the fighting of Ban Hine Siu.

Bombardement au napalm sur une rive du Song Lang, avant le franchissement de la rivière par des éléments parachutistes lors de l'opération "Mouette". Des chars protègent le nord-ouest de la plage de débarquement, Indochine 4 octobre 1953 © ECPAD / Pierre FerrariThis approach to his work — which later inspired many press photographers, including Henri Huet in the Vietnam war — was made more difficult by his heavy equipment (a Rolleiflex 6×6), ill-suited to such subjects. The military status of the photographer, like his past as a soldier, probably made it easier for him to fit in with the men.
Combats à Ban Hine Siu et Na Pho. Un soldat du 3e BPVN porte une mitrailleuse, peut-être reprise à un camarade tombé au combat, Indochine, 5-9 janvier 1954 © ECPAD / Pierre Ferrari

His camaraderie with the five soldiers during Operation Camélia seems clear. This group photo could be a more general portrait of the French army in Indochina. The origins of the soldiers shown — overseas, Vietnamese, mainland France and Moroccan — are a faithful reflection of the diversity of the French Far East Expeditionary Force (CEFEO) between 1946 and 1954.

Portrait d'un groupe lors de l'opération "Camélia". Première classe du génie Laurent, caporal-chef du génie Forcet, 2e classe Thanh, du 8e BPC, 1re classe du génie Accus, 2e classe Joiali Bemaral, du 41e régiment d'artillerie coloniale (RAC), Indochine 24-28 septembre 1953 © ECPAD / Pierre Ferrari

Crédits photos : © ECPAD / Pierre Ferrari

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