Nick Ut stood on a road in a village just outside of Saigon when he spotted the girl — naked, scorched by napalm and screaming as she ran.
Almost a half century later, Ut is driving east of Los Angeles International Airport, past the Forum in Inglewood where he once photographed Lakers games during the “Showtime” era. He has lived in L.A. for more of his life than in his native Vietnam. He knows its streets so well he never uses a GPS or maps.
Legendary photojournalist Nick Ut has announced his upcoming retirement from The Associated Press after 51 years.
“I shipped all my AP cameras to New York,” Ut told News Photographer magazine tonight. “After 51 years I have a lot of vacation time to take before I retire,” he said with a big laugh. “I’m going to be taking a lot of days off until the end of the year.”
Q: So what did your boss Horst say when he first saw the photo of Kim?
A: When he first saw the picture he had just come back from London. He asked who took the picture. They said it was mine. He asked me what happened in that picture. I told him napalm dropped. He went and sat at the light table by himself to look at my negative. He went to the darkroom and made 12 more prints to send to New York. He said that picture would cause trouble, and that he’d never seen a picture like this taken in Vietnam. But when he sent the picture to New York they didn’t want to use it because it was too naked. He said no I want that picture sent right away. He was yelling.
Nick Ut is an AP photographer. From the beginning of his career, he has used Leica cameras. His life work has took him to Vietnam, where he captured a war image…
Nick Ut is an AP photographer. From the beginning of his career, he has used Leica cameras. His life work has took him to Vietnam, where he captured a war image that had such an impact, it stopped the war. Watch the story behind the famous photograph "The Napalm Girl".
It’s difficult to explain to someone who has grown up in the world of digital photography just what it was like being a photo-reporter in the all too recently passed era of film cameras. That there was, necessarily, a moment when your finite roll of film would end at frame 36, and you would have to swap out the shot film for a fresh roll before being able to resume the hunt for a picture. In those ‘in between’ moments, brief as they might be, there was always the possibility of the picture taking place. You would try to anticipate what was happening in front of your eyes, and avoid being out of film at some key intersection of time and place. But sometimes the moment just doesn’t wait. Photojournalism – the pursuit of story telling with a camera, is still a relatively young trade, but there are plenty of stories about those missed pictures. In the summer of 1972, I was a 25-year-old photojournalist working in Vietnam, where I spent two years trying to cover the events of that war. Some stories present themselves in more obvious ways than others, but as the U.S. began winding down direct combat roles and encouraging Vietnamese fighting units to take over the battle, there were moments when trying to tell that story presented enormous challenges.
Thoughts on the enduring power of photojournalism — and on the death of Charles Moore, one of its great practitioners.
The unsettling images from civil rights battlegrounds, followed closely by the disturbing images from Vietnam battlefields by Horst Faas, Eddie Adams, Nick Ut and others, created a golden era for photojournalism.
Today, everyone with a cellphone is a photographer/videographer and streaming video has become a national obsession. But has the proliferation of images devalued photojournalism and dulled its influence?
We're Just Sayin: Closing the Circle
by David Burnett
We had been lingering on the edge of battle in this small village when a droning noise came out of the distance. Two A-1 Skyraider planes, with Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) markings started circling Trang Bang. After a couple of passes they began diving towards the village. I had finished the first roll of film in my Leica III, and had started to reload. The planes came in, lumbering along as they do, and dropped big canisters of napalm. Moments later there was a fiery explosion, and a large fireball erupted on the edge of the village near a pagoda, followed by billows of dark smoke. I was still struggling to slide the Tri-x into my Leica, with one eye watching the planes and one on the camera. The planes made a couple of passes, the film still resisting to go into that narrow loading slot on the Leica. Then, all of a sudden everything changed.