Double Pulitzer prize-winning photographer Horst Faas has stood by a decision not to publish photos taken of US soldiers collecting the severed heads of enemy fighters during the Vietnam War.
Speaking at the launch of Breaking News – a new book charting the history of the Associated Press – Faas said he still agrees with his original decision not to put the pictures out on the AP service.
He said: “First of all you take the pictures, then you judge a bit later.
I was with an American airborne battalion. The company commander had told his men that they would get a case of beer for every head of a dead Vietcong they found.
“One guy started playing soccer with a head. I photographed it. The captain was against this but he didn’t stop me.”
Faas said that when he returned to Saigon, he sent the pictures to his editor with the recommendation that they were not used – and to this day they have not been published. Head office suggested instead that AP did a news story about the incident.
Faas said: “I don’t think they would be run today. It was not a typical thing – just people who were young and stupid.”
Talking generally about the bounds of taste for photo journalists, AP director of photography Santiago Lyon said: “By showing things which are completely shocking, we are not being effective communicators.
We must not shock – we should inform.”