Friday, April 4, 2014

THE REST OF THE STORY

A Photo Journalist Picture Changes a Life
young girl turns tragedy into success

 This picture taken of Kim Phuc has become one of the most famous pictures of war and its senseless violence. Nick Ut was the photo journalist who took this picture. Nick was a photo journalist from Los Angles that had been taking picture since he was 16. This one picture symbolized for him and for the rest of the world the horror of the Vietnamese War, that is known as the American War in Vietnam.  President Nixon thought it had been staged, but Kim who is alive today and resides in Canada is living documentation it was not. The photo journalist documents, but the art is catching that one moment that captures and idea, that summarizes a feeling, and reflects the societal beliefs of the time.  In this photo, as well as, Picasso's Guernica a moment is captured that expresses to us, the horror, the complete senselessness of violence and war.


The Horrors of War   Napalm Bombing Vietnam      A young Kim Phuc is running her clothes burned off.
photo by famous photo journalist  Nic Ut
Kim Phuc today speaking at a conference
a survivor of the horrors and  violence of war

I remembered this photo and the horror I felt in seeing how horrible war can be for children, the most innocent and vulnerable of us. When I met Kim at the ADAC conference in Montreal I had no idea this young girl had survived nor what had happened to her after this picture was taken.  That morning at breakfast, I heard the rest of her story….
   Kim said after the photo was taken she got a lot of attention, from the government.  They basically made her into a poster girl of the American aggression in the war. She was later taken to a place to heal where she almost died from her wounds. But she was strong and a survivor so she made it through.  Unfortunately for her she became the poster girl of the Norther Vietnamese government of the atrocities of  American aggression.  Her life was controlled and made it difficult for her.  She had an interest in medicine and wanted to become a doctor.  The government sent her to Cuba for her education and it was and it was there she would meet her husband to be, who was also Vietnamese.  Her dream to go into medicine did not happen however, her wounds and scar tissue would not allow her to stand for long periods of time and to do all the things she needed to do to be a doctor.  She was later sent to Russia to give a speech and she had chaperones who watched her and her husband carefully.  The plane had to refuel in Canada on the return.  She whispered to her husband she was going to ask for political asylum at the airport.  He was a bit taken aback, but decided he would go with her.  The Canadian government was wonderful and supportive, after some tense moments at the airport with her handlers, she was escorted to freedom. She and her husband have lived in Canada ever sense.  She has worked as an advocate against torture, war abuses, and violence all her life.  She is the most remarkable of people.  If you ever get a chance to hear her speak, please do!!!


Nick Ut, photo journalist and Kim Phuc, young girl in picture, years later hug
at presentation in California.  from google image

Life is full of surprises, with twists and turns we may not foresee.  A famous photo journalists takes a picture at the exact moment a young girl is struck with tragedy and it changes her life and his forever.  
In our next post we will look at photo journalist and their role in the Vietnamese war and how the visual images of a war sparked social unrest at home.  The power of the visual image is strong, Marshall McCluhan said "The media is the message".
  

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