A Weapon of Choice
The Not So Distant Past
When Tom Brokaw visited Eddie Adams in the hospital on his deathbed, Adams said, “You just need to wait, be patient and the image will come to you, that’s what makes a great photographer!”
Eddie Adams was a combat photographer who covered thirteen wars. I’m still in awe by the fact that thirteen wars took place during this man’s career. Adams also shot the image that supposedly marked the beginning of the end of the Vietnam War.
Immediately after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, Lyndon B. Johnson took over the oval office, picked up his puppy by the ears and escalated the Vietnam conflict to new heights. As we all know by now, it was a military conflict, it was never a war. There was never a declaration of war. America was there as a police action to help stop the spread of communism twelve thousand miles away, when all the while Cuba was just 90 miles from the Florida Keys. Ultimately, because of the fighting it was labeled a war.
By 1968 during the Tet Offensive, Adams was there and took the famous picture of the general executing a Viet-Cong in the street. The demonstrations and riots that erupted after the picture was published were insurmountable. I can still vividly remember the chanting by the crowds in Washington, “Hey LBJ how many of our boys have died today?” It seemed as if we were fighting another war here at home. The fighting in Vietnam raged on for another seven years.
I was just a boy during that time, though I followed Vietnam as I followed the Space Program. Yes, I was a space junkie. By the time I entered High School, when most of my friends were hanging out down on the corner and idolized John Travolta and the Bee-Jees, I had a job and spent most of my free time in my darkroom and followed Eddie Adams. I had hopes of falling into his footsteps. I had dreams of becoming a photojournalist and work for Time-Life or National Geographic. Although I admired Adams for who he was, I’ve never considered becoming a combat photographer. War was always offensive to me. Eventually, family obligations prevented me from doing what I wanted to do so I chose a different path. I later attended college and earned my Bachelors in Education.
Adams labeled the camera a weapon, and you can destroy someone just by taking their picture. He won the Pulitzer Prize for that picture, later he wrote in Time:
“The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them; but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths. ... What the photograph didn't say was, 'What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American people?”
I’ve collected cameras the way others collect guns. I’ve held the gun and I’ve held the camera, I like my camera.
“We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them.”
Titus Livius 59BC-17AD