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  Age on Sunday   16 Sep 2018  Nobody wants to see war anymore: Nick Ut

Nobody wants to see war anymore: Nick Ut

THE ASIAN AGE. | OISHANI MOJUMDER
Published : Sep 16, 2018, 2:13 am IST
Updated : Sep 16, 2018, 2:13 am IST

Award winning photographer Nick Ut talks about the subjects that he likes to shoot, and the need to embrace creative freedom at all costs.

Best known for his work in the field of war photography, Vietnamese American photographer Nick Ut was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography in 1973 for his historical photo — The Napalm Girl. Some even credit it as the catalyst that ended America’s involvement in the war.
 Best known for his work in the field of war photography, Vietnamese American photographer Nick Ut was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography in 1973 for his historical photo — The Napalm Girl. Some even credit it as the catalyst that ended America’s involvement in the war.

Noted French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson had once said, “As photojournalists, we supply information to a world that is overwhelmed with preoccupations and full of people who need the company of images...We pass judgement on what we see, and this involves an enormous responsibility.” Best known for his work in the field of war photography, Vietnamese American photographer Nick Ut was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography in 1973 for his historical photo — The Napalm Girl.

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The photo was shot in 1972, right after a napalm attack by North Vietnamese forces in Trang Bang, South Vietnam. The young naked girl running in the photograph, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, was grievously wounded when Nick took the picture. In fact, it was published by The New York Times after much deliberation considering the frontal nudity of the minor. But the effect of the image was drastic, with some even crediting it as a catalyst that ended America’s involvement in the war following widespread public outcry. 

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Talking about his idea of covering the war Ut says, “My idea of covering war has changed. I do not want to cover the war itself. What I want to do instead is click the victims after the war-women and children, their pain, the chaos and not the dynamics of war. Because people are so tired. Nobody wants to see war anymore.” 

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This idea reflects in his best works from the Vietnam war, a compilation of women and children fleeing the crisis. Continuing the conversation, Ut speaks about the need to have brave editors who can take decisions even if it means backlash from state machinery. “When I was covering Vietnam, I had full freedom. I could shoot a dead body and nobody would say anything. I had the backing of my editors. But today, you will get into a lot of trouble. Even now, I am blessed with editors at Associated Press who see the image for what it is, but I do sympathise with journalists in today’s times. It is almost impossible to make a statement without offending the government. They do not have the same freedom.”

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But Ut has a tip to offer. “You want to cover a war, go alone. Not with the Americans or from the newspaper. If I want to cover Iraq, I would head there on my own to keep my creative liberty intact,” he says. Addressing the age old confrontation between photo editors and photojournalists, Ut says, “There are no two ways about it. You have to work harmoniously with your photo editor. The confrontation is always going to be there, about which photo you want used and which photos the editors will select. But that is how the job is. You complain but you get it done.” 

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Tags: nick ut, photography, photojournalists