Horst Faas: 'You can't photograph a flying bullet but you can capture genuine fear'

Obituaries have appeared everywhere today for Associated Press photography legend Horst Faas, who has died aged 79 after a long illness, but the first such notice for him was written back in 1964.

He had been pinned down with South Vietnamese troops overnight and been under such heavy fire that when he returned to the office he found his obituary had already been written ready to file.

This photo (above) was taken in the aftermath of the fighting as heavily traumatised Vietnamese families emerged.

Faas told Press Gazette in 2007: ‘You can’t photograph a flying bullet but you can capture genuine fear.”

This photo has been published all over the world and even made into a sculpture. It helped Faas win the 1965 Pulitzer prize

Faas won a second Pulitzer in 1972, helped by a controversial set of shots taken in the aftermath of India’s 1971 military victory over Pakistan.

He was one of a handful of photographers to stay around after a political rally in Dacca, now Bangladesh, turned ugly.

Four men were tortured over a period of hours and then bayoneted to death by an Indian mob who accused them of collaborating – his pictures were used all over the world.

Afterwards questions were raised about whether the photographers present should have intervened and whether they should have been there at all.

But later Indira Ghandi banned such reprisals when she saw the pictures in the London papers.

Faas said: ‘This is one of the few occasions when a photograph possibly helped to correct history.”

One of Faas’ most famous pictures was a simple picture of an America GI taken in Vietnam in 1965.

Faas said: ‘It is one thousands and thousands of pictures which I sent to New York, yet it is one that has been picked out again and again in exhibitions and books. I guess it is the eyes and the innocence of the GI.”

Faas led AP’s coverage of the Vietnam war from 1962 to 1972 even after being wounded in the legs by a rocket-propelleed grenade in 1967 and nearly bleeding to death.

The late New York Times correspondent David Halberstam is quoted in today’s AP obituary: “I don’t think anyone stayed longer, took more risks or showed greater devotion to his work and his colleagues. I think of him as nothing less than a genius.”

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