Crossing the DMZ is a photo book focused on a small group of US Marines, mostly teenagers, who volunteered to fight and ended up with their names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. It takes the form of a personal scrapbook, merging new photographs with military archives, stories and the emotional terrain of our Vietnam memories. According to Larry Schwarm, photographer, “The book falls in that interesting area between art and journalism— it’s both. It is beautiful and heartbreaking.”
With portraits from the 1960s, the young Marines appear frozen in time: confident and cocky, filled with life and proud to wear the uniform. They were volunteers, but basically kids, and remind us of a generation willing to serve their country. In a collaboration between past and present, Vietnamese who live where the battles were fought pose with photos of these Marines. Crossing the DMZ is an intimate portrait of contemporary Vietnam and the people who live around the battlefields. The portraits in this book provide a unique photographic experience; challenging the viewer to interpret complicated emotions and meanings. Photographer Suzanne Rose described the work as: “utterly poetic…you found a path past pain to beauty.”
A photograph doesn’t change over time, but our memory does. Memories are personal: living, evolving emotions. They can be lost or modified or can age over the years. The photos and fragments of history in Crossing the DMZ may help us remember those who didn’t return and better understand the people that remain. The writer Henry Godbout stated: “The book marries the honesty of war and who serves, and dies, with the grace and beauty of an art book.”
Crossing the DMZ is Dennis Darmek’s first book. His background as a photographer, documentary storyteller and Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam shaped the project. His work has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. Over 25 of his film and video programs have been featured on PBS and screened in international film festivals.