Leica
Nick Út
A giant of photojournalism

At photokina 2012, the photojournalist Nick Út was honoured with the Leica Hall of Fame Award. He shot one of the best-known war images of all time in 1972. The war in Vietnam was his destiny - it changed and made an indelible mark on his life.

‘Nothing less than an everlasting icon of photography.’

said Horst Fass about Nick Út’s famous picture.

 

For Nick Út...

... Vietnam was also his birthplace and his home. Here were the beginnings of a conflict that dominated the front pages of the 1960s and was to go down in history as the first ever media war. Nick Út, real name Huỳnh Công Út, was only 16 when he first met Horst Faas in 1966. His older brother, Huynh Thanh My, had just been killed in the conflict working for the Associated Press (AP) as a photographer. At the age of 18, Nick Út was a fully fledged photographer and no one could stop him going into the war zone. More and more often he sought out locations where good photo opportunities arose.

 

On the morning of 8 June 1972, Nick Út and his driver headed for a small town by the name of Trag Bang, where the Vietcong had blocked National Highway No. 1. The tension of waiting ended abruptly as planes belonging to the South Vietnamese air force appeared over the horizon and dropped four napalm bombs on the town. Only minutes later, the first people fleeing Trag Bang were seen running towards the reporters. First, an old woman with a dying baby in her arms. They were closely followed by a group of screaming children and, amongst them, a completely naked and badly burned napalm victim, the nine-year-old Kim Phuc. Automatically, Nick took shot after shot with his Leica M2. Everything was over in a flash and the reporters began to give first aid to the badly injured girl.

The next day, the photo appeared on front pages around the world. Although the Americans were pulling out of Vietnam at the time and media interest was waning, the picture stirred up global controversy and horror. It revived the anti-war movement and Nick Út was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and, from that moment on, became a star.

Since that time, Kim Phuc has settled in Canada, and she and Nick Út have been friends since the day they first met and meet regularly in all sorts of places around the world. She in her role as a UN Messenger of Peace, and he as a famous photojournalist.

 

For Horst Faas...

... Vietnam was the geographical nucleus and the zenith of his unique career. He had been a photojournalist for the news agency Associated Press (AP) since 1956, and had already reported from war zones in Algeria and the Congo. He made many trips into the jungle and travelled in helicopters and fast patrol boats to shoot pictures that have since left an indelible mark on our collective consciousness. In 1965, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his courage reporting in the field.

Later, Horst Faas played an instrumental role in making Nick Út’s shot of the fleeing children an icon of war photography. Alongside his professional work as a photographer for AP, Horst Faas concerned himself with the fate of his fellow photographers who fell in Vietnam. In the mid 1990s, together with Tim Page, he dedicated the ‘Requiem’ exhibition to their memory. In 2005, Horst Faas was honoured by the German photography association, DGPh, with the Salomon Prize. Horst Faas passed away in Munich on 11 May 2012.

During the ceremony at the photokina 2012 in Cologne honouring Nick Út with the Leica Hall of Fame Award, the late Horst Faas was remembered with a posthumous ‘Honourable mention’.