From the Second World War to Vietnam: The Photographs of Dickey Chapelle

In the world of combat photography, there have been countless individuals who have risked their lives to document the harsh realities unfolding in front of them. Among these brave photographers, one name stands out with a unique legacy – Dickey Chapelle. Born Georgette Louise Meyer on March 14, 1919, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and adopting the nickname Dickey from a childhood friend, her remarkable journey not only left behind a trove of iconic images, but also paved the way for generations of photojournalists to follow in her footsteps.

From an early age, she displayed a passion for writing and photography, attributes that would define her future career led her to embark on an incredible journey as a combat photographer, covering some of the most pivotal events in modern history. Chapelle's career began in during World War II. She volunteered as a war correspondent, making her one of the first female war correspondents in the Pacific theater. After the war, Chapelle's career continued to evolve, leading her to eventually cover the Vietnam War, where her work elevated and became truly iconic. Her lens captured the horrors of war, the humanity and courage of the people involved. With her Leica M2, she became known for wearing her signature uniform: fatigues and a scarf, a combination that made her an easily recognizable figure in the midst of war where her work offered a reminder of the price of war in terms of casualties but also, in the sacrifices made by the civilian population.

Tragically, Dickey Chapelle's life was cut short on November 4, 1965, when she was killed by shrapnel from an exploding mine in Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam. Her death was a stark reminder of the perils of her profession for all who decide to enter the horrifying and extremely dangerous theaters of combat. In recognition of her contributions to photojournalism, Dickey Chapelle was posthumously awarded the George Polk Award becoming the first female recipient since its establishment in 1949. Her work remains an inspiration to photojournalists today, reminding them of the power of the camera document history. 

In the video above from her hometown station, Milwaukee PBS, we're offered a brief glimpse into her life, her career and her legacy to the world of photography.

Michael Rudzikewycz's picture

Michael is an amateur photographer currently living in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. A Long Islander by birth, he learned how to see with a camera along the shores of the island that he will forever call home.

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