Nick Ut – Now and Then

If you haven’t yet read it, take a look at Nick Ut: Double Negative, an interesting article in a paper I seldom read, the Daily Telegraph. Nick Ut is the guy who took the iconic Vietnam image of a nine-year-old girl running along the road towards him, screaming, naked because she had torn off her napalm covered burning clothes, strips of burnt skin hanging from her shoulders. It was a picture that changed the attitudes of many towards the war, and won Ut a Pulitzer prize.

As John Preston says, he took the shot, but then saved Kim Phuc’s life, cleaning off the napalm, wrapping her in a jacket and driving her to hospital. The two are still in contact, still friends – almost family – 35 years later.

Last year, he took another picture that made the news worldwide, catching Paris Hilton crying in a car after she had been told she would serve her jail sentence. Ut was one of a pack of several hundred photographers outside her house, and with his camera on high speed, just happened to get one ‘lucky’ shot in which her face is clear – and clearly crying.

It isn’t a good picture. It’s about an event of infinitesimal significance to anyone except the one spoilt woman in the car, but it made front pages and TV news around the world. It makes me sick that so many photographers are wasting so much time on such trivia – and that it is more or less all that pays. Ut says he doesn’t mind, was “grateful to have the work.” To me it is just a total waste of time and talent.

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