POINT SHOOT CLICK - John Fairley’s Vietnam

  • Exhibition time

POINT SHOOT CLICK….John Fairley’s Vietnam presents a personal perspective on the activities of an Army Public Relations Photographer in Vietnam.

Sergeant John Fairley’s photos of Australian Troops in action are evocative.  His unique and personal touch is apparent and his images invite the viewer to find out more. Fairley's choice of composition draws the viewer in as though they are behind the camera themselves. This unexpected way of viewing the subject makes his work stand out amongst the numerous images of the Vietnam war. 

The 8 photographs in this exhibition are selected from over 600 held in the National Collection and display the challenging roles Australia’s servicemen had during the Vietnam War.  

In this excerpt from an oral history interview recorded by the Australian War Memorial, Fairley discusses some of the photographs he took during his deployment.


Photographer: John Fairley, 21 February 1970

Australian troops prepare to sweep through thick scrub in the Long Hai mountains in South Vietnam during Operation Hammersley. The men, of 8th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (8RAR), had clashed with a strong Viet Cong force in the area on 18 February 1970. Since then the mountains had been pounded continually by air strikes, naval bombardment, and artillery fire. This time the soldiers were more than prepared: every man was wearing a flak jacket and steel helmet, and leading the sweep were Centurion tanks and armoured personnel carriers.


Photographer: John Fairley, 21 February 1970

Australian soldiers pause on a rock ledge during their sweep of a section of the Long Hai Mountains to survey the ground below during Operation Hammersley. The area was the scene of a bitter battle between a Viet Cong company and troops of 8th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (8RAR), three days earlier. Bomb scarred trees bear evidence of the pounding the mountains received from land, sea and air strikes.


Photographer: John Fairley, May 1970

Trooper John Pile of Newtown, NSW, keeps watch while on patrol. The Special Air Services (SAS) men creep through the jungle to spy on the enemy to provide raw intelligence for the Australian Task Force Commander to act upon.


Photographer: John Fairley, May 1970

The Special Air Services (SAS) men return to the 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) base at Nui Dat. Leading from the chopper (helicopter) is patrol commander Sergeant John O'Keefe of Balga, WA.



Photographer: John Fairley, June 1970

5716285 Lance Corporal Alan Henry Leivers of Melville, WA (left), and of A Company, 7th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (7RAR), and 44766 Lance Corporal Kenneth Montague Page, Port Lincoln SA, and also of A Company, look into a Viet Cong well at a bunker system near Long Tan, six miles east of the 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) base at Nui Dat. The well was later demolished during the operation.


Photographer: John Fairley, July 1970

Sargent John Fairley was aboard a Dustoff (medical evacuation) helicopter when he took this photograph.  The South Vietnamese Civil Irregular Defence Group solider on the stretcher was wounded by an accidental explosion during training.  An American Advisor who assisted with the training is carrying the top end stretcher.


Photographer: John Fairley, July 1970

Australian Army Training Team (AATTV) adviser, Captain Peter Shilston of Williamtown, NSW and Captain Ngac, South Vietnamese Army question a Montagnard village chief about the population of the village in central South Vietnam.  Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Mobile Strike Force, placed a cordon around the village and carried out a search at first light.


Photographer: David Brown, August 1970

Sergeant John Fairley, a photographer with the Army Public Relations Service introduces a Vietnamese boy to the wonders of the Bach Auricon 16mm sound on film motion picture camera. Fairley 23 at the time this photograph was taken had been in Vietnam for 7 months.  He was stationed in Saigon but had covered operations of the 1st Australian Task Force in Phuoc Tuy Province, as well as doing other assignments thought the country.