In early January 1968, Philip was briefly back in London and had to move in to a new flat. He was packing the car, loading it with bags and boxes, running up and down the stairs. By the time he got back downstairs, a suitcase, filled to the brim with negatives and prints, was gone. This suitcase, still lost to this day, contained a large chunk of Philip’s early career. Philip didn’t have much time to dwell on this loss before getting on a plane back to Vietnam to cover the Tet Offensive. But the loss of this suitcase was still something that stung many years later, very little of his early work having survived. Until a day in the mid-2000s when, he got a call from The Observer. They’d had a locked filing cabinet in their office for decades, completely ignored. One day someone finally took a crowbar to it and found envelope after envelope of Philip’s work. Britain in the 1950s and 1960s. What is lost is not necessarily gone.
“I discovered very early on that if you wanted to change the world you’ve got this amazing little box around your neck. And people believe photographs. Well at least they used to believe photographs… now with digital, people are quickly having second thoughts.”
Philip Jones Griffiths
In a letter to Philip, March 2008;
“It must be some comfort to you to know that your work will outlast all the speeches and posturing of politicians with their spin doctors and will reveal more about the arguments of our times than you can get from leading articles or BBC programmes”