‘Napalm Girl’ and Photographer Speak About Famous Photo

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  • Photographer Nick Ut saved her life after taking a picture of nine-year-old Kim Phuc screaming in pain.
  • Kim Phuc said she “disliked” photography first and was “embarrassed” that the world was in pain with her nakedness.
  • Nick Ut and Kim Phuc became lifelong friends in the wake of the iconic “Napalm Girl” photo.

After recovering from 65% of his body burns for 14 months in the hospital, Kim Phuc finally saw a picture of himself annoying the world. “I went home and my dad showed me a picture of me taken from a Vietnamese newspaper for the first time,” she told an insider from her home in the suburbs of Toronto. “I was very embarrassed. I saw my face suffering, crying and naked. I hated the picture.”

A single scorching image did more than just change the lives of young people. When it landed on the top pages of many international newspapers, it changed the world and changed the course of the Vietnam War itself.

On June 8, 1972, Phuc was nine years old, raised in the shadow of the Vietnam War, and a sudden deadly napalm fell overhead in a small village in Chambang. An aerial attack by the South Vietnam Air Force Sky Raiders sang her lithe little body, stripped her clothes, and then she shouted her towards Highway 1. While surrounded by her brothers and cousins, the pain of her naked silhouette complaining of her suffering is obvious.

Without the lucky 21-year-old photographer, the moment of bowel injury would have been lost in history and Phuc could have lost her life.

Officially entitled “Fear of War,” this unique image, colloquially called “Napalm Girl,” transforms their lives and creates a lifelong bond between the photographer and the subject. I made it. But every step to publishing the iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning images was touching.

In this September 25, 2015 photo, Kim Phuc is taking a photo at a hotel in Miami.  (AP Photo / Nick Ut)

In this September 25, 2015 photo, Kim Phuc is taking a photo at a hotel in Miami. (AP Photo / Nick Ut)

Associated Press


A picture was taken — and life was saved

Nick Ut, also a Vietnamese, was an Associated Press photographer who had been wrestling with bloody wars for years and had multiple dying experiences.

After taking the picture, he saw Hook’s serious pain and took action when she saw her skin peeling off, lamenting “I’m dying.” “I’m watching Kim and her children, and I couldn’t keep her dead,” Ut told the insider. He personally brought her to the hospital using the muscles of his media to ensure she received her treatment among the overwhelming medical staff. (She was put in a morgue after being canceled because she was injured and could not survive.)

Not only did he capture the victims of a tragic war against innocent people, he saved the girl’s life. Still, the world was almost deprived of seeing the bitter reality of war.

“They said,’I don’t think we can use it,'” he recalls some editors who asked him to retouch the image of the internal organs for nudity. did. However, the original image was carried out intact, providing many clues about US involvement, signaling the end of the 20-year battle about two years later.

Photographer Nick Ut took a 1972 photo with Kim Phuc at the weekly open-air public audience of Pope Francis at St. Peter's Square on May 11, 2022 in Vatican. I have.

Photographer Nick Ut took a 1972 photo with Kim Phuc at the weekly open-air public audience of Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Square on May 11, 2022 in Vatican. I have.

ALBERT PIZZOLI / AFP via Getty Images


Phuc was grateful forever. “He’s my hero. He not only took a picture of me, but saved my life. He left the camera and took me to the hospital.”

Ut felt the same way.

“After taking a picture of Kim, I wanted to save her life and make Kim look like a family,” 71-year-old Ut told insiders. It will take another 17 years for them to meet again — Ut fleeing post-war Vietnam and Phuc “stuck” there — but the connection wasn’t broken. At their meeting in Cuba, where she was studying medicine, Hook told her beloved “Uncle Ut” how she wanted to escape from their hometown like him. I was anxious. He fled in 1975 after the fall of Saigon and moved to LA in 1977, two years later.

However, embassy surveillance forced a superficial confab. “I wanted to shout’Uncle Ut, help me,’but I knew I was in trouble,” Ut finally told her, “I’m right,” after successfully asylum in Canada in 1992. Phuc said he was able to say. I am happy to have freedom. “

Both the photographer and the subject arrived in North America and stayed close despite the distance.

Recognized for political asylum thousands of miles from her oppressive hometown, she settled near Toronto with her Vietnamese husband and became a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador to the world with her two boys’ mothers. became.

Ut got married, had two children, took root in Hollywood, and had been aiming for AP for decades. The camera he used to shoot the 35mm Leica M2 Phuc. The f2 lens was left for history in a museum in Washington.

“When I got freedom in Canada, I wanted to escape the painting,” said Hook, who often mixed sadness and hope. “I didn’t like being that little girl in that picture at all,” she said. “I didn’t feel my life was my own.”

Kim Phuc is discussing her trials in 2003, carrying the scars of a napalm attack she experienced when she was nine.

Phuc is discussing her trials in 2003, carrying the scars of a napalm attack she experienced when she was nine.

Scott J. Ferrell / Congressional Quarterly / Getty Images


Her apparent identity was shaped by the “Napalm Girl,” but after 17 surgeries and 11 laser treatments, Hook strove to grow her constitution on her own terms.

But a new perspective evolved from freedom and motherhood. “I have the freedom to protect children around the world,” she said. Because of all its horror and humanity, Phuc built peace with her photographs and everything it represents, and her anger gave way to acceptance. And she finally expressed her gratitude. For me. “

High-impact images

The shock and resonance of photography has been felt for decades. “Vietnam War veterans told me,” I came home early for your photo. I didn’t want to die in Vietnam, “Ut approached in public for years. I remembered that.

This image captures how children are suffering from war and the horrifying effects of napalm, a flammable jelly-like substance developed by American chemists. .. The United States and South Korea used napalm ammunition extensively to set fire to North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters and their often hidden routes. However, concerns about its horrific consequences persuaded the United States to destroy the stock and agreed in 2009 not to use it and other incendiary bombs except for military targets.

Ut and Phuc together visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington and met Queen Elizabeth about 20 years ago. This month, they welcomed the audience with the Pope, who was given a framed photo signed of “Fear of War.”

Nick Ut enjoyed decades of his career as an Associated Press Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer.

Nick Ut enjoyed decades of his career as an Associated Press Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer.

Eslavirgin / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


In a recent controversy over photos, Phuc counterattacked and claimed images as a good force when Facebook temporarily deleted photos in 2016 because they violated that standard. “I made a statement.” The picture is not your idea. The picture records the moment and shows the fear that the children are suffering. “

It was soon revived.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of our ingenuity, complex emotions are mixed as we look back on their lives and the world. Phuc and Ut will appear together at the Fotografiska Museum in New York to discuss iconic war photography inscribed in public awareness in front of friends and colleagues.

Her hard-earned survival lessons are more relevant today than ever before. With the emergence of images from Ukraine, including a parade of images of children injured and fleeing, Phuc conveys her half-century worth of wisdom. She noted the most important lesson from the tragedy of the Vietnam War and the incomprehensible sacrifice it suffered. She said, “I now have a loving life, not a hateful and bitter life.”

The wounds she inflicts, both visible and hidden, drive her into life and healing.

“I am very grateful that I am still alive. Fifty years ago, I was a victim of war on the painting,” Phuc said. “Fifty years later, I am no longer a victim, but a survivor, calling for peace.”

According to her, the act of resilience is an option.

“I always make decisions in my life. Will I be a victim of suffering and hatred forever? No way, I have to learn and make the decision to move on.”

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