I’ve been thinking about Nick Ut (b. 1951) recently, and how young some combat photographers are. It turns out that this past Sunday, June 8, 1972 marked the 42nd anniversary of the day Ut took his most famous photograph. He was just 21 years old at the time and had been a professional photojournalist for five years already.
Isn’t that amazing? Ut documented war for the Associated Press from the tender age of 16. He followed in the footsteps of his older brother Huynh Thanh My, a veteran photographer who had died in 1965.
Ut’s photograph of naked Kim Phuc running down Highway 1 after a napalm attack is one of the iconic images from the Vietnam War yet, when it was taken, it was rarely published. According to a recent article by Nate Jones for People Magazine, “cautious journalists in America wondered if the nudity was too extreme for their front pages.” Ut still won a Pulitzer for it, however, becoming the youngest photographer recipient to date.
Nick Ut’s photograph of Kim Phuc is frequently used to discuss ethics in photojournalism. In my mind, he did exactly the right thing: captured the image and then provided help (he got Kim a coat and drove her to the hospital). What do you think?
Now retired from war zones but not photography, Ut covers Los Angeles for the Associated Press. As quoted by Nate Jones, “When you’re over 60, what do you do?,” Ut says. “I’m fighting the paparazzi in Hollywood – that’s my war.”
What would you ask Nick Ut, if you could ask him anything? Please share in the comments.