The Camera Never Lies...


But truth often exists only in the eye of the beholder.

Today, the man who took this picture, a picture that defined to many people, the horror that was Vietnam, died.

Pulitzer Winning Photographer Eddie Adams was 71.

Most people who know anything at all about Vietnam have seen this picture. In the eyes of the layman, this is street justice being meted out by a monstorous regime that is wholly supported by the United States.

But that is not the truth of what is going on in this picture. To quote the great film Director Samuel Fuller " The camera lies like a sonofabitch".

From Eddie Adams Obit:

But fame — instant, enduring and discomforting — resulted from a single photo taken Feb. 1, 1968, the second day of the communists' Tet Offensive, in the embattled streets of Cholon, Saigon's Chinese quarter.

Drawn by gunfire, Adams and an NBC film crew watched South Vietnamese soldiers bring a handcuffed Viet Cong captive to a street corner, where they assumed he would be interrogated. Instead, South Vietnam's police chief, Lt. Col. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, strode up, wordlessly drew a pistol and shot the man in the head.

Adams caught the instant of death in a photo that made front pages around the world. It would became one of the Vietnam's War's most indelible images, shocking the American public and used by critics to dispute official claims that the war was being won.

In later years, Adams found himself so defined — and haunted — by the picture that he would not display it at his studio. He also felt it unfairly maligned Loan, who lived in Virginia after the war and died in 1998.

"The guy was a hero," Adams said, recalling Loan's explanation that the man he executed was a Viet Cong captain, responsible for murdering the family of Loan's closest aide a few hours earlier.

"Sometimes a picture can be misleading because it does not tell the whole story," Adams said in an interview for a 1972 AP photo book. "I don't say what he did was right, but he was fighting a war and he was up against some pretty bad people."

Or as a friend of mine once said: 'context is everything'.

September 19, 2004 at 05:01 PM in Vietnam | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack