I’ve been working on a project based on PoW’s from Hoa Lo prison in Hanoi – known by US forces as ‘The Hanoi Hilton’ where prisoners were subject to horrendous brutality and torture. During my research I encountered Lt Cmdr Richard A Stratton who was one of the first PoW’s and who was forced to confess and bow to his captors. All of this photographed by Black Star photographer Lee Lockwood in 1967. Lee was the first american photographer allowed in to North Vietnam since the start of the war. I sourced a copy of the original Life magazine which contained the feature and sat in that rarest of things ‘scottish sunshine’ yesterday reading it.
The project has been fascinating as I’ve managed to locate Dick Stratton and we have getting along very well via email. Last week we skyped for the first time and he is a very impressive fella. He has given me copies of photos not seen in public. We even found out our wives had the same maiden names and that his wife was of Scottish descent. He has been incredibly supportive and encouraging and its now interesting to talk to him about his reflections on how one photograph had such an impact on his life. When Paul said why not focus on just one photograph I thought there is not enough there but in reality there is lots to be getting on with and I’ll be doing a recorded interview with Dick this Thursday in the hope that I can bring my conclusions together. This plus the rethink project phew !! It’ll be time for some R & R in April but then we’ve found a very supportive US publisher for my book 8% and one of the couples I’ve been working with has agreed to travel to Prague with me to visit the Doctor who diagnosed their son as having Downs Syndrome. All this excitement is keeping me going though.