Photographer Nick Ut received the Achievement in Photojournalism Award at the 12th Annual Lucie Awards in New York for his iconic portrayal of Napalm Girl Pham Thi Kim Phuc.
He speaks to Viet Nam News about this great honour and of his plans to return to Trang Bang District in the southern province of Tay Ninh next month, where the photo of the Napalm Girl was taken.
Could you share something about the Lucie Awards and your feelings when you received the honour?
The Lucie Awards, the signature programme of the Lucie Foundation, is the premier annual event honouring the greatest achievements in photography.
My photo featured a naked nine-year-old girl Pham Thi Kim Phuc, running toward the camera from a napalm attack at Trang Bang Village during the Viet Nam War.
Over the past 40 years, the Napalm Girl photo has received a number of prestigious awards such as the Pulitzer and the World Press Photo Award. It's also one of the 100 influential photos of the 20th century.
I am very proud to accept this award that recognises my lifetime's work.
As time goes by — and millions of photographs have been taken since then — what do you do to make the photo stay in people's memory for a long time?
The picture is not about art; it is about remembering history. It changed the way how people saw the Viet Nam War, and helped to stop the use of the napalm bomb. Due to its value and power, the photo also changed the way newspapers were censored in the United States in wartime. Although it was about a naked girl, the photo still appeared on all front pages of newspapers.
The picture is in textbooks, museums and libraries. I think people won't forget it.
What do you think of the other photographers who also won the Lucie Awards?
There are six awards divided into different categories. Pedro Meyer, one of the pioneers and most recognised representatives of contemporary photography, received the Visionary Award.
Nan Goldin from Washington, DC, who began taking photographs at the age of 15, won the Achievement in Portraiture Award.
Jane Bown, who has the ability to master the most adverse circumstances or awkward individuals, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Martin Parr from the United Kingdom and Carrie Mae Weems won the Achievement in Documentary and Achievement in Fine Arts Awards, respectively.
Actually, they are all very good photographers and cover different types of pictures. In my view, they have different tastes and their own creations. They are the best.
You worked earlier as a war correspondent. What is your current work?
I'm an Associated Press photographer and I cover daily news photos in the Los Angeles area. You will see my name above most of the AP news pictures used in LA Times.
I have some projects relating to photography, which are different each day. Breaking news is what I work on daily.
My camera never stops taking good pictures. Some of the news photos you cannot forget are of Hollywood stars, the California wildfires and the stories of famous people.
Do you plan to return to Viet Nam in the near future?
I visit Viet Nam every year. I will be there again this December to do a photography project on the Mekong River. I love Viet Nam. It is my family.
Next year, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the end of the war, I will return with several American war correspondents who were in Viet Nam, including Tim Page and Pulitzer winner Peter Arnett. They will be interested in taking photos of the redeveloped Viet Nam.
As a veteran and much-awarded photographer, do you have any advice for Vietnamese photographers?
In my opinion, Vietnamese photographers are at a disadvantage compared with colleagues from agencies elsewhere in the world, as they have to get cameras and other devices themselves. I also sense the enthusiasm among Vietnamese photographers. The most important thing in pursuing a career in photography is that you must love it and devote yourself to it. The work requires one to be careful and responsible.
I never used photoshop in photojournalism. Let me tell you the example of a Reuters photojournalist who took the picture of an Israeli airplane bombing in Lebanon. Seeing that the smoke was not dark enough, he photoshopped it to make the smoke look thicker. The trick was found out and he was fired. All his devotion to his work was ignored. — VNS