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, 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
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
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.
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
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
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.