Media Day to feature Vietnam veteran photographer Johnny Crawford

Next Tuesday Minnesota State Mankato will host award-winning photographer Johnny Crawford in Ostrander Auditorium. His lecture, which is featured as a part of the 2022 MSU Media Day, will highlight his “Vietnam Black Soldiers Portrait Project”. 

According to Rachael Hanel, the chairperson of the mass media department, “We see Media Day as the day to celebrate all things media. We try to bring someone in who can speak to different aspects of the media, so Johnny is perfect with the visual aspect,” Hanel said. 

Media Day will also feature a scholarship award ceremony for mass media students at 4 p.m. in the CSU Ballroom. 

Crawford has worked as a sports photographer, a freelancer, and a teacher. During his 28 years at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he photographed four Olympic Games and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Though the majority of his career has focused on athletics, Crawford has turned his attention toward portraits in recent years. 

“Sports was no longer a viable thing for me, so I had to figure out something else. Throughout my career, I never liked shooting portraits, but my favorite photographer was Yousuf Karsh, a portrait photographer. My wife had a school fundraiser, I started shooting some portraits, and found out I have a knack for it,” said Crawford. 

Crawford began the Vietnam veteran project with the men in his church and initially planned to only photograph veterans in his home state of Georgia. 

“I’ve been thinking about Vietnam since I was six years old. Back in the ‘60s, they would show how many people were killed a day on television. My uncle, who went to Vietnam, was the first person I’d ever seen with an army uniform– and he had a camera. When I was in college, I did an internship at a Veterans Affairs medical center. I got a chance to photograph veterans from the World Wars, the Korean War, and Vietnam. Although I started the project in 2018, it’s always been something in the back of my mind,” Crawford said.

The Vietnam Black Soldiers Project currently features veterans from 19 different states, and he hopes to grow that number in the near future. 

Crawford views the opportunity to lecture as a way to educate on different perspectives and give others the chance to see his own unique experiences. 

“One of the things I want to talk about is why I see the things I see, why I perceive things the way I do. I see things a lot different than most people, and that comes from seeing a lot of death early in my life. I can understand the pain that people go through. Part of what you’ll hear about is some of the coping things I do, and why I think it’s important to remember the people who died for this country,” Crawford said. 

Large banners of the “Vietnam Black Soldiers Portrait Project” will be displayed in Nelson hall leading up to Crawford’s lecture, and his 7 p.m. lecture in Ostrander Auditorium will be free and open to the public.

Write to Alexandra Tostrud at

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