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Lee Lockwood, photojournalist who went behind the lines, dies

TAMARAC — Lee Lockwood, an American photojournalist who had rare opportunities to capture political, military and civilian life in Communist countries — documenting the treatment of an American prisoner of war in North Vietnam and persuading Fidel Castro to sit for a long, discursive, smoke-filled and highly personal interview — died on July 31 in Tamarac. He was 78 and lived in Weston.

The cause was complications of diabetes, his sister, Susan Lewinnek, said.

As his work through the decades made clear, Lockwood regarded photojournalism as a potent instrument for social change. A freelance photographer, he was associated for many years with the Black Star agency, which furnished his images to newspapers and magazines around the globe.

He also wrote several books, including Castro's Cuba, Cuba's Fidel: An American Journalist's Inside Look at Today's Cuba in Text and Picture.

In 1967, at the height of the Vietnam War, Lockwood was the first outside photographer in more than a decade to be allowed into North Vietnam. (Not long before, while in Havana to research his Castro book, he had prudently obtained a North Vietnamese visa.)

The fruit of Lockwood's 28-day visit, a long, heavily illustrated essay titled "North Vietnam Under Siege," was published as the cover article of the April 7, 1967, edition of Life magazine.

Though Lockwood's trip to North Vietnam was carefully controlled — he was forbidden to photograph military installations and had a government official with him at all times — he managed to traverse 1,000 miles in a month.

In words and photos, Lockwood captured the life of a country then under heavy bombardment by U.S. forces: bare, ruined villages; deserted factories; a boy with a missing leg, lost to a bomb. There were also calmer, quieter images of farmers, flower sellers and hemp dyers plying their trades.

His most striking encounter, in Hanoi, was with Lt. Cmdr. Richard A. Stratton, a Navy pilot who had been captured in January 1967. As Lockwood and other foreign newsmen listened, a man identifying himself as Stratton read over a loudspeaker a long "confession" attacking U.S. involvement in the region.

Then, from behind a curtain, Stratton appeared, looking, Lockwood wrote, "like a puppet."

"His eyes were empty," Lockwood wrote. "He stood stiffly at attention while movie lights were turned on and photographers took pictures. His expression never changed."

Accompanying Lockwood's account was his photograph of Stratton, clad in prison pajamas, making a deep, supplicating bow on orders from a North Vietnamese officer. The image, which occupied a full page of the Life article, was widely reproduced.

Partly in response to Lockwood's article, the State Department accused North Vietnam of brainwashing U.S. prisoners to elicit antiwar statements from them.

In an interview with the New York Times in 2008, Stratton, who had been released in 1973, suggested that such statements were less the product of brainwashing than of common sense.

"You are being tortured and all you have to do to get them to stop is say the same thing that Bobby Kennedy is saying," Stratton said.

Lee Jonathan Lockwood was born in New York City on May 4, 1932, and took up photography as a boy. He earned a bachelor's degree in comparative literature from Boston University in 1954 and did graduate work in the field at Columbia. In the mid 1950s, he served with the Army.

His other books include Conversation With Eldridge Cleaver: Algiers and Daniel Berrigan: Absurd Convictions, Modest Hopes — Conversations After Prison With Lee Lockwood.

Lee Lockwood, photojournalist who went behind the lines, dies 08/07/10 [Last modified: Saturday, August 7, 2010 8:58pm]
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