Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Eddie Adams and the Saigaon Execution

Picture copyright: Arko Datta for Reuters

I found this interesting piece on NYT's photography blog, Lens today. "Saigaon Execution" picture of the Saigaon police chief shooting a Vietnam war protestor from a close range was clicked by photojournalism legend Eddie Adams. I always thought it was one of the iconic images that symbolise photojournalism and its power to document history. I didn't know that Adams detested the fact that this picture won him the Pulitzer instead of another one of Jackie Kennedy in mourning. Don Winslow tells a very interesting story. Read on.

Photographers have no control over what their work can become. How it would connect with the viewers? Whether it would convey exactly what the photographer intended for the viewer? I remember a chat with Arko Datta, who shot the picture of the Gujarat tailor, Qutubuddin Ansari virtually begging for life with folded hands and tears in his eyes during the 2002 Gujarat riots. He said his personal favourite was another picture taken and filed the same day. He said he would have been more happy if that particular picture would have got the acclaim the tailor's picture received.

Arko also had no control on the shadow of that photograph on Ansari and his life in the hostile aftermath of the Gujarat riots. It was printed and reprinted hundreds of times by newspapers and magazines to go with articles on Gujarat riots and the picture became virtually the single defining image of the Gujarat riots. But Ansari had a tough time and was forced evenually move from Gujarat to West Bengal in an attempt to shake off the influence of that image and its shadow on his life.

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