Horst Faas, one of the great photojournalists of the 20th century has passed away, leaving an amazing body of work from a decade in Vietnam and elsewhere (including the Congo, Pakistan and Syria). Many of Fass’ photos are well known to Americans who lived through this period. But he also worked with so many American and South Vietnamese photographers as Chief of Photo Operations for AP’s bureau in Saigon that much of his work was behind the scenes, training photographers (“Horst’s Army” as they were called) and selecting images to be forwarded for publication.
From the Associated Press:
A native of Germany who joined the U.S.-based news cooperative there in 1956, Faas photographed wars, revolutions, the Olympic Games and events in between.
But he was best known for covering Vietnam, where he was severely wounded in 1967 and won four major photo awards including the first of his two Pulitzers.
“Horst was one of the great talents of our age, a brave photographer and a courageous editor who brought forth some of the most searing images of this century,” said AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll. “He was a stupendous colleague and a warm and generous friend.”
Among his top proteges was Huynh Thanh My, an actor turned photographer who in 1965 became one of four AP staffers and one of two South Vietnamese among more than 70 journalists killed in the 15-year war.
My’s younger brother, Huynh Cong “Nick” Ut, followed his brother at AP and under Faas’s tutelage won one of the news agency’s six Vietnam War Pulitzer Prizes, for his iconic 1972 picture of a badly burned Vietnamese girl fleeing an aerial napalm attack.
Faas was a brilliant planner, able to score journalistic scoops by anticipating “not just what happens next but what happens after that,” as one colleague put it.
His reputation as a demanding taskmaster and perfectionist belied a humanistic streak he was loath to admit, while helping less fortunate ex-colleagues and other causes. He was widely read on Asian history and culture, and assembled an impressive collection of Chinese Ming porcelain, bronzes and other treasures.
“Horst Faas was a giant in the world of photojournalism whose extraordinary commitment to telling difficult stories was unique and remarkable,” said Santiago Lyon, AP vice president and director of photography.
Faas was a two-time Pulitzer winner and a master of his craft, who understood the power of the photographic image to convey a story. He leaves us with some of the most searing images of the 20th century – a visual record that will retain its power with our increasing distance from the actual events. Not surprisingly, he was a task master and perfectionist, but also a humanist, generous in spirit, encouraging South Vietnamese photographers to document the tragedy of the War themselves. Born into a childhood of war in Germany, he knew and had an eye for what we needed to see.
The Associated Press site has put together a slideshow of his work – it represents only a small portion of his influence but the images are memorable. See AP Horst Fass Images
Below, women and children take cover in a muddy canal from Viet Cong fire at Bao Trai on January 1, 1966. In the background, paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Division, who were escorting South Vietnamese villagers through the firefight.