****This post does contain images that some people may find distressing***
I first came across Horst Faas about 10 years ago when reading a history of war photography. Fass has long been considered one of the greatest War photographers of all time, up there with Capa and James Nachtwey. He has won the Pulitzer prize twice and his pictures of the Vietnam War have become iconic images of the war.
Fass was born in Berlin in 1933. In 1951 he joined the Keystone agency and by 21 was covering conflicts in IndoChina. He built a reputation as a unflinching and tenacious reporter and in 1956 joined one of the most famous picture agencies, AP (associated press). Sent to cover the war in Vietnam and Laos he became AP’s chief photographer in SE Asia. He won the Pulitzer prize in 1965 for his work in Vietnam and in 1967 was badly injured by a RPG and he used a wheelchair for the rest of his life, despite this he won his second Pulitzer in in 1972 for his coverage of the Bangladesh conflict.
Faas is also famed for his picture editing and is responsible for two of the most famous pictures of the Vietnam war being published. In 1968 he was sent a picture taken by Eddie Adams of the infamous execution of a Vietcong prisoner by Saigon police chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan. He was also instrumental in publishing Nick Ut’s famous picture ‘Napalm Girl’, Despite the arguments of senior figures at AP, not least that the girl was nude!
“…an editor at the AP rejected the photo of Kim Phuc running down the road without clothing because it showed frontal nudity. Pictures of nudes of all ages and sexes, and especially frontal views were an absolute no-no at the Associated Press in 1972…Horst argued by telex with the New York head-office that an exception must be made, with the compromise that no close-up of the girl Kim Phuc alone would be transmitted. The New York photo editor, Hal Buell, agreed that the news value of the photograph overrode any reservations about nudity.”
Faas was determined to ensure the picture was published and this picture maybe more than any other sparked off the protests in America against the war in Vietnam.
Horst continued his work in photo journalism, always pushing to have controversial pictures published, believing that the public had the right to see them, no matter how un-appetising. He finally retired in 2004 and sadly passed away on the 10 May 2012.
A truly remarkable man…RIP