The image is so powerful it is credited as being one of two photographs from that war which turned the tide of American opinion, ultimately resulting in the withdrawal of US forces from Viet Nam. The second photo, snapped by another Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, Nick Ut, shows a naked, terror-stricken girl running, along with some other children, from the fire, smoke, and horror of a napalm bombing.
"Saigon Execution" certainly isn't the only memorable photo Eddie Adams ever snapped during his long and notable career. Adams himself wasn't too impressed with the execution photo nor was he particularly proud of it.
While most people remember Adams mostly as a war photographer and, later, a celebrity photographer, he was also, I'm proud to say, a pretty girl shooter!
Adams was one of the most published photographers of our time. His work was seen on the covers of Life, Time, Vogue, Parade and many more magazines. It was also seen on the cover, and within the inside pages, of Penthouse Magazine. In the documentary film, "An Unlikely Weapon: The Eddie Adams Story," Adams tells how he went from taking pictures for the Associated Press, then for Time magazine, and then to shooting women for Penthouse. "...it was just another challenge, so I did that." Adams nonchalantly explains.
In a clip from the film, one featuring Adams shooting a Penthouse model on a beach, he's asked some questions about his photographer/model interactive techniques. First, he talks about his methods for getting the model to try and "turn me on." But don't think Adams is being a perv or the stereotypical GWC! He's cleverly and artfully applying some basic psychology in order to get the shots he needs. Anyone who thinks shooting pretty girls, or any other portrait subject for that matter, is just about cameras and lights and exposure and that stuff, is mistaken. Psychology, in many ways, is as potent a tool for getting the shots than anything you might know about the technical side of photography. If you've read my e-book, "Zen and the Art of Portrait Photography," you're likely aware of know how much I believe in the power of other approaches to the work, including psychology and more, rather than relying nearly solely on technology and technical craft for getting the results I'm hoping to capture.
Adams continues by stressing his rule of never touching his models: not her her hand, her shoulder, her hair, or in any way he tells the interviewer. "It will frighten the girl," Adams explains. "It will tighten her up and the pictures just won't be the same."
Hard to argue with a photographer of Adams' caliber. Anything a photographer might do, through words or actions, that may create some level of mistrust or a sense of inhibition in the mind of the model will likely be counter-productive and will usually be a negative force when it comes to the resulting images.
Rest in Peace, Eddie Adams. The world is a better place because you were once in it.
The pretty girl at the top is another of Aurora. (Also featured in my last update.) This time, it's one I snapped in my friend's studio.