BBC World News Banner
BBC Home BBC News BBC Sport BBC TV BBC Radio BBC Weather BBC Languages
Advertise with Us
Advertise with Us
An Unlikely Weapon
An Unlikely Weapon
In 1968 the American photographer Eddie Adams took a picture of a shooting in Saigon which became an iconic image of the Vietnam War. Some have credited the widely published picture with swaying US public opinion against the war.
See the report:

Real 56k | Real 100k | Real 256k

Windows 56k | Windows 100k | Windows 256k

Official site, with trailer

Adams died in 2004 but now a new film explores his life’s work and how his famous photograph haunted him.

The promotional literature for this film boasts that Eddie Adams photographed 13 wars, six American presidents and every major film star in the last fifty years.

But it was his photograph of General Loan, the Saigon police chief shooting a Vietcong suspect that defined and haunted him. Susan Morgan Cooper, who put together this film, knows just how potent that photograph has been.

"That photograph was circulated all over the world," she says. "It brought the stark brutality of war into living rooms across America".

Audience members at a special screening of the film this week say Adams’ Saigon photograph definitely had a big impact.

Hal Buell: "A lot of people who were sitting on the fence were pushed off to the antiwar side by that picture because of its sheer horror. Since then, like icons, a picture takes on a greater meaning and now it has come to symbolize not just the war in Vietnam but all war and all the horrors of war."

The film shows how Adams subsequently befriended General Loan, who eventually emigrated to America where he ran a pizza parlour.

Adams felt his photograph didn’t tell the whole story, and the background that led up to the shooting. He felt the general was being unfairly blamed. Adams' widow Alyssa participated in a post-screening discussion.

"He definitely was haunted by that picture," she said. "He was very upset about General Loan and how it affected him. I read that his wife said to the General that he should have taken the film from the photographer.

"I often think about him and his family and how it must have affected them. I know that is what Eddie was thinking about."

An Unlikely WeaponThere are plenty of glowing tributes to Adams in this film; one reviewer wrote of the picture's 'repetitive fawning', an assessment that seemed to surprise the director.

"He has been called an absolute pain in the neck by almost everyone that I interviewed," she revealed. "I don’t think I was fawning at all because even if I had been fawning I think Eddie's curmudgeonly character, would have nuked any of my fawning.

"You can tell in the movie that he is very impatient at times taking photographs. His character comes out. He was unflinching and uncompromising."

Could it be the photograph that brought him respect was more to do with being in the right place at the right time than skill?

"Being there is not as easy as it sounds," says Hal Buell. "First of all, being there takes a lot of time and effort and money.

"Secondly, being there means you have to have a sense of news and sense of what is going to happen so that you are at that place at that time.

"Then there is a basic instinct of the photographer which is honed by his experience and by his talent. Another photographer might have missed it."

What shines through in this film is Adams' brilliant photography and his misgivings over his most famous photograph. He wrote in Time magazine “the general killed the vietcong, I killed the general with my camera."


BBC World News Front Page | Contact Us | Terms & Conditions