May 11, 2012

Remembering Horst Faas

Horst Faas, the burly Pulitzer Prize-winning war photographer who risked his life to capture some of the most haunting images from the Vietnam War, died May 10, 2012. He was 79.

An Associated Press photographer since 1956, the native of Germany was the first photographer to win two Pulitzer Prizes. His first award was in 1965 for a photo essay that included an image of a father holding his dead child, as South Vietnamese Army Rangers looked down on them from a tank. His second Pulitzer came seven years later for his gripping photographs of prisoners in Bangladesh being tortured and executed.

As chief of AP's photo operations in Southeast Asia from 1962 to 1974 and based in Saigon — now Ho Chi Minh City — Haas assembled the best young photographers to chronicle the war. Under his leadership, "Horst's army" captured some of the most controversial and iconic images of the war.

In 1968, Faas selected what he later called the "perfect newspicture" from a roll of film taken by the late AP photographer Eddie Adams to send over AP wires. Adams's graphic image of a Viet Cong prisoner being shot in the head received the Pulitzer for spot news in 1969. In 1972, after an editor refused to transmit Nick Ut's photo of a Napalm-burned girl running down a Vietnamese road, Faas sent it instead. The photo won the 1973 Pulitzer for spot news.

Faas was an early supporter of the Newseum, specifically the museum's annual rededication of the Journalists Memorial, which honors newspeople — many of them war reporters and photographers — who died covering the news. A ceremony will be held at the Newseum May 14, 2012. In 1997 and 1998, the Newseum exhibited works from "Requiem," a book Faas co-edited with Tim Page that featured the works of photographers who died in Vietnam and Indochina.

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