Legendary war photojournalist dies at 79

Story highlights

  • Photojournalist Horst Faas has died, The Associated Press says; he was 79
  • Faas was AP's chief photographer for Southeast Asia between 1962 and 1974
  • He was based in Saigon during much of America's tumultuous involvement in Vietnam
Renowned photojournalist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Horst Faas, who spent years covering war's human dramas in the world's hotspots, has died, The Associated Press said Friday.
The AP's chief photographer for Southeast Asia between 1962 and 1974, Faas -- who was based in Saigon during much of America's tumultuous involvement in Vietnam -- died in Munich on Thursday, the news agency said.
He was 79.
"Horst was one of the great talents of our age, a brave photographer and a courageous editor who brought forth some of the most searing images of this century," said AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll. "He was a stupendous colleague and a warm and generous friend."
Earning Pulitzers in 1965 and 1972 for his conflict images of Vietnam and Bangladesh, Faas recruited freelancers for the news agency and managed bureau photo operations before moving to London as a senior editor, according to the National Press Photographers Association.
"I knew how to travel," he said years later in an interview posted on newseum.org, the website for an interactive museum of news and journalism located in the District of Columbia.
"I knew how to take care of myself, to survive and to be able to take pictures," Faas said. "How to befriend people that (I) may need to follow and how not to be noticed. And how not to get in the middle of things."
That, he said, is "the secret of all good conflict photography."
"Don't get between the groups."
And yet his photographs often brought viewers close to the action.
The Berlin native covered conflicts in the Congo and Algeria before becoming AP's chief photographer for South Asia. He was badly wounded in Vietnam in 1967.
In 1972, Faas transmitted Nick Ut's famous image of a Vietnamese girl fleeing her village during a napalm attack.
Four years earlier he had managed photo operations during the Tet Offensive, a major action launched in multiple cities by North Vietnamese troops and Viet Cong militia against U.S. forces and South Vietnamese regulars.
AP photographer Eddie Adams returned after the attack with one of the war's most iconic images: A snapshot captured just moments before Vietnam's national police chief executed a suspected Viet Cong.
"Running my Nikon eyeball quickly over a roll of black-and-white film from Eddie Adams, I saw what I had never seen before on the lightbox of my Saigon editing desk," Faas wrote in "The Digital Journalist" in October 2004. "The perfect newspicture -- the perfectly framed and exposed "frozen moment" of an event which I felt instantly would become representative of the brutality of the Vietnam War."
Faas was hospitalized in 2005 and was later transferred to a medical facility in Germany after suffering from a blood clot on his spinal cord, The AP said.
Afterward he was confined to a wheelchair, but continued to publish images and writings about his career in the field.