Tag Archives: photojournalism

More on WWII photo censorship

Here is a new  Times “Lens” blog, with more on LIFE magazine photographer George Strock.

Photo by George Strock/ LIFE magazine.

Photo by George Strock/ LIFE magazine.

 

 

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America’s history of censorship

By Christopher B. Daly 

A recent obituary reminds us that during World War II, President Roosevelt created and operated a wide-ranging and largely effective program of censorship of all news media. The news is the death, at age 94, of Cal Whipple, who was a Pentagon correspondent for LIFE magazine during the war. It was Whipple who persuaded the military to re-examine its policy of banning photos of dead U.S. servicemen. Eventually, the top brass referred the matter to the president, and Roosevelt personally intervened. (It might have made more sense, of course, for LIFE’s publisher, Henry Luce, to take up the matter with the president — but for the fact that Luce was a Republican and quite a FDR-basher by 1943.) The result of Whipple’s efforts was this stunning photo by LIFE’s George Strock:

Photo by George Strock/ LIFE magazine.

Photo by George Strock/ LIFE magazine.

That photo (which I paid Getty Images for the right to use) was followed by many more, all of which brought home the reality of war.

Here is an excerpt from my book, Covering America, about the issue:

 

   Another special case involved war zone photography. Initially, U.S. military and civilian censors banned the publication of photos showing dead American soldiers or sailors. It was assumed that such images would be bad for civilian morale, and they would probably not bring the troops much cheer either. For twenty months after Pearl Harbor, not a single photo depicting a dead U.S. service member appeared in the news media. Much of the initiative for change came from the editors of Life magazine, which, with a circulation of more than 2.5 million a week,23 had emerged since its founding in 1936 as the nation’s premier showcase for photojournalism. Among its wartime staff were Margaret Bourke-White, Carl Mydans, and Robert Capa. With its large format and glossy paper, Life gave photos their greatest possible impact. In a 1942 advertisement for itself, Life expressed its philosophy: “Never has LIFE glossed over the horrors that stalk in the wake of the Axis aggression, but has shown war as it really is . . . stark, brutal, and devastating.” Even so, the censorship guidelines prevented showing dead GIs, so editors at Life and elsewhere pressed their case for greater candor. In mid-1943 the Roosevelt administration reversed its earlier policy, and in September officials began releasing the first of the somber photos. The most famous was the one printed in Life showing three dead soldiers lying where they had been shot on a beach in New Guinea. The photo, by George Strock, was a masterpiece of composition and understatement. The dead men’s faces were not visible, and their wounds were hidden as well. The editors and the military brass all worried about the public reaction, but they need not have: most letters to Life supported the decision, and there was no measurable drop-off in American support for the war. Ever since, readers on the home front have been given a closer and more realistic look at war. . .

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Shameless self-promotion (Journalism history division)

By Christopher B. Daly

Finally, it’s here: the electronic version of my book about the history of U.S. journalism, Covering America.

Just in time for the anniversary of the rollout of the hardback, this prize-winning book is now available in all major formats:

Nook,

Kindle,

Apple iBook, (This is the format I am checking it out on, and it looks great.)

Google Play,

you name it.

I am very pleased because I know that some folks have been waiting for the e-book. These formats make the book quite a bit cheaper and dramatically lighter! For people who don’t feel drawn to the ~$50 hardcover, here’s your chance to read Covering America. The book won the 2012 Prose Award for Media and Cultural Studies, and it has been selling well and drawing rave reviews (except for one stinker on Amazon — sheesh).

Enjoy it, and write to me about your reactions. You can comment here, or email me: chrisdaly44@gmail.com

CA cover final

 

 

 

 

 

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Tyler Hicks: photos from Timbuktu

By Christopher B. Daly

The intrepid Tyler Hicks, conflict photographer for The New York Times, has made it to Timbuktu, recording the campaign to oust the Islamic militants who briefly held the remote city and the aftermath of the city’s liberation. Hicks (a graduate of the program where I teach at Boston University) has been to all the major hot spots in recent years and has survived a number of threats, including kidnapping. We should all treasure his work:

An ancient manuscript saved from destruction. Photo by Tyler Hicks / NYT

An ancient manuscript saved from destruction.
Photo by Tyler Hicks / NYT

 

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The big picture

By Christopher B. Daly 

In case you missed it, here is the Washington Post‘s panoramic photo of Obama’s second inaugural, which is quite impressive. (I’m just not crazy about those tags. They take up a lot of space and block a lot of pixels. Maybe there is a better design.)

And if you want to know how it was done, here is an explanation by the Reynolds Journalism Institute at Mizzou.

Can you spot yourself?

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Subway photos: The journalist’s dilemma

By Christopher B. Daly

Anyone who has ever ridden the NYC subways has probably thought about it as you stand on the platform waiting for a train. What if some crazy bastard snuck up behind me and pushed me onto the tracks? Could I get back up? Would anyone help me?

Or, perhaps a variation on the theme: What if I see someone else pushed? Will I have the courage to jump down there and help?

The recent tragedy in New York City pushes all these thoughts (and more) into focus. These issues often rise to the forefront when journalists are on-scene. It seems that photojournalists, in particular, are often thrust into these situations, because photographers are so often at or near the scene of terrible things.

This is an issue that I took up in my recent book, Covering America.(pgs 329-330)

Here’s an excerpt that was prompted by the famous photo from the American war in Vietnam that showed a Buddhist monk burning himself to death in protest. (More thoughts after the excerpt)

. . . On June 11, 1963, the Buddhist monks of Vietnam took center stage. For weeks as the crisis built, the AP’s Mal Browne had been filing stories, and he had spent a lot of time in pagodas, interviewing monks and getting a good understanding of  their cause. On the night of June 10 Browne got a call from a contact among the monks, telling him there would be an important development the next morning at a small Saigon pagoda. Several Western correspondents got the same tip, but only a few showed up, including Browne and, later, [David] Halberstam. Only Browne, under the AP photo policy, was carrying a camera. After a while, a 73-year-old Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc, went to a busy Saigon intersection and sat down in the lotus position, ringed by hundreds of other monks. Several monks doused him with gasoline, then he struck a match (fig. 11.2). As the flames rose, the monk never flinched. Browne kept working. “Numb with shock,” Browne later recalled, “I shot roll after roll of film, focusing and adjusting exposures mechanically and unconsciously, almost as an athlete chews gum to relieve stress. Trying hard not to perceive what I was witnessing I found myself thinking: ‘The sun is bright and the subject is self-illuminated, so f16 at 125th of a second should be right.’ But I couldn’t close out the smell.” Browne probably could not have intervened once the match was lit, even if he had been prepared. The hundreds of monks would have stopped him.

Malcolm Browne / AP

Malcolm Browne / AP

This incident, like much else that correspondents saw in Vietnam, dramatizes a problem that might be called the Journalist’s Dilemma. For obvious reasons, journalists often witness tragedies and catastrophes. In the course of reporting or shooting photos, they are sometimes confronted by an apparent conflict between continuing to work or stopping to render assistance. Should the journalist step out of the traditional role of observing news and try to help? If the journalist intervenes to prevent a tragedy or to offer aid and comfort to victims, does he or she thus enter the story as a historical actor and give up any claim to practicing journalism (and along with it, perhaps, any First Amendment rights)? Close examination of many cases reveals that the Journalist’s Dilemma is often an illusion. In most instances, the action unfolds so quickly that there is no time for decision making, while in others, the journalist is in fact able to observe the news, record it, and still rise to at least a basic level of humanitarian action. Still, it is in the nature of a dilemma to have no ultimate solution. . .

Like soldiers, cops, EMTs, firefighters and other “first responders,” news reporters and photojournalists often find themselves running toward trouble rather than away from it. As a result, they are often present when bad things happen. This, of course, does not mean that they caused the bad thing, just that they were in the vicinity. Throughout the history of journalism, going at least as far back as Samuel Wilkeson of the New York Times covering the battle of Gettysburg in 1863 and finding the body of his own son among the Union dead, the issue has come up again and again. Here are some notable cases:

Kevin Carter 1993

Kevin Carter 1993

–There is the story of photographer Kevin Carter, who took a heart-stopping photo of a starving child apparently being stalked by a waiting vulture. That photo, taken in Sudan in 1993, earned him both praise and condemnation. After the photo won the Pulitzer Prize in 1994, Carter took his own life. Here is his NYT obit (written by South Africa correspondent Bill Keller). Few people realize that Carter helped save the girl’s life. His story was later the focus of a film, called “The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club.” (Made in 2006 at the Cal-Berkeley School of Journalism.)

–There is the longer version of Mal Browne’s photo of the burning monk. Browne also describes the incident in a segment of a terrific historical PBS video called “Reporting America at War.”

KIM PHUC VIETNAM –There is the story behind another famous Vietnam war photo — the “napalm girl” photo of 1972, taken by photojournalist Nick Ut, a Vietnamese native who was working for the AP at the time. As with Kevin Carter, few people who saw this photo ever learned that Ut put his camera down and render aid that probably saved the girl’s life. Here is a version told in part by the AP photo chief in Saigon during the war, the prize-winning photojournalist Horst Faas. The girl, Kim Phuc, survived and moved to Canada. Here is more about her. She was also the subject of a 1999 biography by Denise Chong called The Girl in the Picture. Photographer and subject also met several times.

–More recently, NYTimes photojournalist Tyler Hicks has found himself in the thick of things all throughout Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the countries of the Arab Spring. Hicks, a Pulitzer Prize-winner, was captured in Libya in March 2011. Later, he was with his colleague Anthony Shadid when Shadid died from a severe asthma attack that came on while the two journalists were entering forbidden territory in Syria. Hicks carried his buddy’s body across the border into Turkey. images

–Finally, there is the incomparable James Nachtwey, who has been thinking about these things for a long time. Here are some of his thoughts in a TED talk.

 

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Horst Faas, great news photographer, dies at 79

By Chris Daly

One of the most important photographers and photo editors of the last century has died. Horst Faas, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner during his long career at The Associated Press, was 79.

Obits are here and here and here.

Horst Faas in a heroic pose / AP Photo

Faas really made his mark in Vietnam, where he was stationed from 1962 through 1973. There, he planned the coverage, trained new photographers and photo stringers, edited many of the most memorable images of the war, and shot photos himself. From the tiny darkroom in the bathroom of the AP’s Saigon bureau, he was responsible for much of the “look” of the war.

Two photos are always associated with Faas and his constant efforts to disseminate photos that would show the reality of war:

–in 1968, during the Tet Offensive, the AP photographer Eddie Adams snapped a photo of a South Vietnamese officer executing a Vietcong prisoner. The photo caught the very moment when the bullet entered the prisoner’s head and captured something about the offhand violence of the war.

Eddie Adams / AP Photo

–in 1972, he fought to transmit the unforgettable image of a young girl fleeing naked and screaming from a napalm attack. The picture was shot by Nick Ut, a Vietnamese photographer trained by Faas, and the decision to send it out was one that Faas fought hard for. I remember seeing it on the front page of the Boston Globe on the day it was published in 1972 and never could forget it.

Nick Ut / AP Photo

As I discovered in researching my new book on the history of journalism, Covering America, Faas was also responsible for another of the most emblematic photos of the Vietnam War, the photo from 1962 of a monk burning himself to death in protest against the government of South Vietnam. The photo was taken by AP correspondent Malcolm Browne. But Browne was a reporter/writer, not a photographer. The only reason he was carrying a camera that day was that Faas insisted that all AP correspondents learn to take photos and carry cameras with them. Back at home, union rules forbade AP correspondents from shooting photos, but in Vietnam, those rules didn’t apply, and Faas wisely turned everyone into a photographer.

Recently, while researching the photos for my book, I came across Faas photo. This is a photo that I knew I wanted for my book, but I had a devil of a time figuring out who owned the rights to it. I had seen it variously credited to TIME and the New York Times (both wrong) and to the AP (not quite right either). It is a photo that shows three of the key U.S. correspondents stationed in Saigon during the early years of the war: David Halberstam of the Times, Mal Browne of the AP, and Neil Sheehan of UPI (later of the Times). They are standing around in front of a helicopter. Browne is smoking and Sheehan holds a big map.


According to Faas, he took the photo himself. And he told me that he took it with his own personal camera and that it never belonged to AP. But rather than rile the AP and its lawyers, he sent me the image directly via email and said to go ahead and use it with his blessing. Here’s what he wrote late last year:

I took the photo at the time as a personal picture and should have it in my personal computer files. I will look for it beginning next week: No time now – I am off for a quick trip (without my computer). Since all my material at the time was officially AP material I don”t want to get in conflict with AP and would give you the photo “courtesy of..” i.e. free of charge, In return I would be interested in a copy of your book once it is published. OK?

Best regards, Horst Faas

Thanks again, Horst.

I also want to share another photo that Faas sent me (“courtesy of” the photographer). It shows the press corps in Saigon in 1963:

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