Saturday, April 24, 2010

What's the context?

The photograph we examined in class of the Vietnam prisoner about to be executed intrigued me. The fact that the execution was moved so the photograph could be taken and framed in a specific light spoke volumes about its purpose, but what was the history behind the picture?

An Article by Jonah Goldberg explains the photograph's immediate context:
“Just moments before that photo had been taken, several of [General Loan's] men had been gunned down. One of his soldiers had been at home, along with [his] wife and children. The Vietcong had attacked during the holiday of Tet, which had been agreed upon as a time for a truce. As it turned out, many of the victims of the NC and North Vietnamese were defenseless.“

We learned that the prisoner died and the photographer won a Pulitzer, but what happened to the guy holding the gun?

“Photographer Eddie Adams, who won a Pulitzer Prize for this photograph, said the execution was justified, because the Viet Cong officer had killed eight South Vietnamese. The furor created by this 1968 image destroyed [the executioner] Loan's life. He fled South Vietnam in 1975, the year the communists overran the country, and moved to Virginia, where he opened a restaurant. He died in 1998 at age 67. Loan 'was a hero,' Adams said when he died. 'America should be crying. I just hate to see him go this way, without people knowing anything about him.' “ -Flickr User

Adams later wrote the following in an article for TIME magazine:
"The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths. What the photograph didn't say was, 'What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American soldiers?'"

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