March 14, 2009
by Marsha Dubrow
A new book "Eddie Adams: Vietnam" (Umbrage Editions) is the first
book by one of the world's most renowned photojournalists.
The book, with essays by David Halberstam, Tom Brokaw, Morley Safer
and other journalists, includes 200 photos never before seen. They
shed new light on the Vietnam War from the front lines.
This iconic 1968 photograph is the highlight of both the book and an
exhibition of its images at the Umbrage Gallery in Brooklyn, NY
through April 30.
Eddie Adams' photo helped turned the tide against the Vietnam War
and earned the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for breaking-news photography 40 years ago.
Adams caught Brigadier General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, acting South Vietnam
Police Chief, shooting a suspected Viet Cong guerrilla in the head.
Adams snapped it during the Tet Offensive, the surprise attacks by
North Vietnamese across South Vietnam. The attacks began in its
capital Saigon where the photo was taken.
After the war, Loan emigrated to the DC suburb of Burke, VA where he
operated a pizza shop until his death in 1998. Adams had kept in
touch with Loan, and published a eulogy in "Time" which Adams once
worked for. "The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general
with my camera." The photographer added, "General Loan was what you
might call a real hero, admired by his troops. I'm not saying what he
did was right...This picture really messed up his life. He never blamed me."
Adams was proud of his 1979 shot "Boat of No Smiles", showing 50
Vietnamese refugees in a 30-foot boat after fleeing from their
homeland. The photo helped convince the U.S. government to admit some
200,000 Vietnamese refugees, according to Adams. He once said, "I
wasn't out to save the world. I was out to get a story."
In addition to war photography, he snapped some of the world's most
famous people. The book notes that Clint Eastwood told him "good
Shot." Fidel Castro said, "Let's go duck hunting." And Pope John Paul
II told him, "You've got three minutes."
The celebrated photographer died of Lou Gehrig's Disease at the age
of 71 in 2004. He had amassed about 500 awards and covered 13 wars,
from the Korean War as a Marine combat photographer to Kuwait in
1991, during his extraordinary 45-year career.