Agent Orange: "Collateral Damage" in Viet Nam, by photographer Philip Jones Griffiths (Trolley, $39.95), begins disturbingly, with shots of a ravaged and defoliated countryside. But soon the landscapes give way to portraits of those victimized by Agent Orange, the chemical sprayed by the U.S. military in the late 1960s to kill trees and deny cover to the enemy. The collateral damage of the book's subtitle refers to its effects on humans, especially birth defects, and these photographs are harrowing. In one of the least distressing, two older brothers steady themselves with poles in the background while their brother crouches front and center, staring off-kilter as he holds on to a concrete slab. The key to this unusual threesome is provided by the caption: "Tran Van Lam, 10 years old, is mentally retarded and has difficulty walking. His older brothers, Tran Van Thuan, 20, and Tran Van Hoang, 16, also suffer from malformed legs. Their father built them a bamboo walkway to help strengthen their legs." Of the parents who have to care for such offspring -- and far worse cases, such as children who have to be restrained so they will not hurt themselves, children with deformed organs and limbs, children born without eyes -- Griffiths writes, "There [is] a surprising lack of recrimination towards those who are responsible, other than the occasional polite inquiry about the possibility of compensation from America."
-- Dennis Drabelle