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Eddie Adams

Born in 1933 in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, combat photographer and photojournalism legend Eddie Adams is credited with some of the most distinct photographs of his generation. One of the most shocking and memorable photo was the Vietnam War image of a Vietcong prisoner being shot by a South Vietnamese officer (pictured below).

Eddie Adams
Eddie Adams, AP Photo

Adams won a Pulitzer Prize for the Vietnam photograph. In a nutshell, his career evolved from being a war photographer to becoming immersed in celebrity and fashion photography and even advertising.

Among his published contributions are those in the series of books, "Day in the Life," which included the, "A Day In The Life of America," which involved the participation of the world's top 200 photojournalists.

He also established the Eddie Adams Workshop for budding journalists.
The young Adams developed his passion for photography in his teens, when he became a staff photographer for his high school paper. He also photographed weddings and portraits. After graduating, he joined the United States Marine Corps, where he captured scenes from the Korean War as a combat photographer.

Three years later, in 1958, he worked for Philadelphia's The Evening Bulletin for a period of four years. During this period of his career, he also started taking photographs for the renowned Associated Press, or AP.

Eddie Adams Vietnam

A turning point in his photography career took place in 1965 after he, along with his friend Dirck Halstead, a United Press Photographer, decided to travel and cover the Vietnam War. In Vietnam, not only was Adams a photographer, he also had to work as a reporter. He and Halstead stayed for a year, but Adams later came back to Vietnam and was present in 1968 when the Vietcong launched the Tet offensive.

An NBC crew that was there at the time invited Adams to join them to record the battle between the Vietcong and the South Vietnamese Army. This was the defining moment when Adams witnessed the Vietcong prisoner being shot in the head by South Vietnamese Brigadier General Nguyen Ngoc Loan.

Adams captured the image of the split-second of a gun fired with a vivid depiction of the prisoner's face in fear and/or pain from behind his camera lens. The encounter was so close that Adams was able to clearly recount how he initially thought it was a mere attempt to threaten on the part of the general. He was, like the rest of the news crew, surprised to have seen an actual close-range, gun execution.

The general even came over to where Adams' team stood to say how the prisoner caused many deaths among his men and of Americans as well. This was just one instance where Adams figured into the face of war-torn Vietnam. The photograph was credited with turning the tide of American's opinion against the war.

Eddie Adams Burning
Ironically, while the award-winning photograph put the general in bad light for generations to come, Adams found it in his heart to be friends with the man up to the former military man's death sometime in 1998.

Other work from Vietnam, a series of photographs showing 48 Vietnamese refugees who set sail to Thailand on a huge boat only to be denied entry to the country, was something that made Adams proud. It is believed these pictures influenced the United States' decision to welcome as many as 200,000 refugees to its shores.

Adams' post-war career revolved around capturing images of such icons as Pope John Paul II, Deng Xiaoping, Indira Gandhi, Fidel Castro, Mikhail Gorbachev, Anwar Sadat, George H.W. Bush and Richard Nixon, among others. He also dabbled in fashion photography and advertising.

The photography icon died in 2004, succumbing to Lou Gehrig's disease.


The Rumor Mill

The rumor mill still stirs in regard to Eddie Adams' personal life. In addition to the biography that has just been presented it has been said by unnamed sources that Eddie Adams once beat Lurch of the Addams Family in an Indian Leg Wrestling contest.


 


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