The other day I promised Chas Williams that we'd declare a moratorium on mentions of Paris Hilton, but I'm going to have to break that promise (hey, the hounds of news and all. Sorry, Chas). David Schonauer of American Photo has uncovered a rather stunning coincidence: the picture that's been making the rounds of P.H. being hauled back to jail was taken by none other than Huynh Cong "Nick" Ut. Nick Ut, as you remember from Photo History 101, was the photographer who took one of the iconic pictures of the Viet Nam war, the picture of Kim Phuc running naked down a country lane after suffering serious napalm burns. Ut's photograph was arguably the apex of the notion of "The Concerned Photographer," Cornell Capa's phrase for the idea that photographs of injustices and atrocities could help correct the situations that led to them.
And get this: the two pictures were taken exactly 35 years apart, to the day. Quite a coincidence.
Can you imagine two more fundamentally different pictures of young women crying? A world apart in more ways than one. (Although maybe not as far as it seems: Kim Phuc Phan Thi, below, is now a Canadian citizen with her own philanthropic foundation. Click on the picture to link to the Kim Foundation page.)
The temptation here is to pontificate about the changing concerns of the American public, or at least its news media. Just last night, Jay Leno showed an equally stunning clip from MSNBC—I believe, though I'm not sure, that it was legitimate—showing a major breaking international news story about the Iraq war being shoenhorned into the Paris coverage as if it were far less important. Take a look.
But maybe that's reading too much into it. Coincidences happen. Maybe it's just that Nick is older now, and Hollywood's a cushier beat than the middle of a war.
Kind of makes you think, though, doesn't it?
Mike (thanks to Andy Frazer)
P.S. The full frame is interesting, too:
Whoops! Now we think this is the full frame (thanks to Siquing Zhang):
Featured Comment by Larry Armstrong: First, I should disclose that Nick Ut is my friend, and Nick is very well liked and respected by those who work with him. He is a quiet and unassuming person who takes his work as an AP photographer seriously. I couldn't imagine him telling his editors, who assigned him to the courthouse that day, that as the author of "the napalm girl" he shouldn't have to shoot Paris being wisked off to jail. You go where you are assigned to cover the "news of the day."
I do take exception to Marc's implication that it is an overestimation that an image could contribute to ending a war. Three images which have been widely accepted as having turned public opinion against the Vietnam war were Nick Ut's 1972 image of a naked girl fleeing her napalmed village, Ronald L. Haeberle's color pictures documenting the 1968 My Lai massacre, and Eddie Adams's 1969 pulitzer prize shot of South Vietnamese Brigadier General Nguyen Ngoc Loan shooting a Vietcong prisoner in the head in the middle of the street.
When Saigon fell and and the first refugees streamed into a tent camp at Camp Pendleton, Nick Ut was briefly one of the anonymous refugees waiting and hoping for a sponsor. Some photographers who recognized him put pressure on the AP to take responsibility as his sponsor. They did, and he became a staff photographer assigned to the Tokyo bureau, then in 1977 he was transfered to Los Angeles, where he has covered everything from fires, breaking news, trials, major sports events and yes, even Hollywood.
Those interested in the whole story of "The Napalm Girl" might find this article from the Digital Journalist interesting.