Horst Faas dies aged 79 - the images that changed course of history and touched the human heart

By Belfast Telegraph Updated at 2012-05-12 14:54:22 +0000

Related pictures

  • 2012-05-12 11:07:09 UTC
    Bildschirmfoto_2012-05-12_um_12.18.24 April 1969 - shot by Associated Press photographer Horst Faas, a South Vietnamese woman mourns over the body of her husband, found with 47 others in a mass grave near Hue, Vietnam.

  • 2012-05-12 11:06:30 UTC
    Bildschirmfoto_2012-05-12_um_12.21.39 In this Dec. 18, 1971 file photo shot by Associated Press photographers Horst Faas and Michel Laurent, part of Pulitzer prize winning series

  • 2012-05-12 10:50:47 UTC
    Bildschirmfoto_2012-05-12_um_12.21.51 In this March 1973 file photo taken by Associated Press photographer Horst Faas, American prisoners of war look through barred wooden doors at the last detention camp at Ly Nam De Street in Hanoi, North Vietnam.

  • 2012-05-12 10:50:10 UTC
    Bildschirmfoto_2012-05-12_um_12.22.03 Associated Press photographer Horst Faas is shown in this undated file photo in Ca Mau, Vietnam.

  • 2012-05-12 10:49:22 UTC
    Bildschirmfoto_2012-05-12_um_12.22.18 In this Jan. 16, 1966 file photo taken by Associated Press photographer Horst Faas, Lt. Col. George Eyster of Florida is placed on a stretcher after being shot by a Viet Cong sniper at Trung Lap, South Vietnam.

  • 2012-05-12 10:48:33 UTC
    Bildschirmfoto_2012-05-12_um_12.22.36 Horst Faas

  • 2012-05-12 10:47:50 UTC
    Bildschirmfoto_2012-05-12_um_12.22.53 In this Aug. 1962 file photo shot by Associated Press photographer Horst Faas

  • 2012-05-12 10:46:35 UTC
    Bildschirmfoto_2012-05-12_um_12.23.06 In this March 19, 1964 file photo, one of several shot by Associated Press photographer Horst Faas which earned him the first of two Pulitzer Prizes

  • 2012-05-12 10:40:04 UTC
    Bildschirmfoto_2012-05-12_um_12.23.30 In this June 1965 file photo shot by Associated Press photographer Horst Faas, South Vietnamese civilians

  • 2012-05-12 10:33:51 UTC
    Bildschirmfoto_2012-05-12_um_12.23.54 In this Jan. 1, 1966 file photo taken by Associated Press photographer Horst Faas

  • 2012-05-12 10:31:01 UTC
    Bildschirmfoto_2012-05-12_um_12.24.12 In this March, 1998 file photo, former Associated Press Saigon photo chief Horst Faas, left, and former AP Saigon bureau chief Richard Pyle

  • 2012-05-12 10:29:22 UTC
    Bildschirmfoto_2012-05-12_um_12.24.23 In this 1967 file photo Associated Press photographer Horst Faas works in Vietnam

Horst Faas, a prize-winning combat photographer who carved out new standards for covering war with a camera and became one of the world's legendary photojournalists, has died aged 79.

A native of Germany who joined the US-based news co-operative The Associated Press there in 1956, Faas photographed wars, revolutions, the Olympic Games and events in between.

But he was best known for covering Vietnam, where he was severely wounded in 1967 and won four major photo awards including the first of his two Pulitzer Prizes.

As chief of AP's photo operations in Saigon for a decade beginning in 1962, Faas covered the fighting while recruiting and training new talent from among foreign and Vietnamese freelancers. The result was "Horst's army" of young photographers, who fanned out with Faas-supplied cameras and film and stern orders to "come back with good pictures".

Faas and his editors chose the best and put together a steady flow of telling photos - South Vietnam's soldiers fighting and its civilians struggling to survive amid the maelstrom.

Among his top proteges was Huynh Thanh My, an actor turned photographer who in 1965 became one of four AP staffers and one of two South Vietnamese among more than 70 journalists killed in the 15-year war.

My's younger brother, Huynh Cong "Nick" Ut, followed his brother at AP and under Faas's tutelage won one of the news agency's six Vietnam War Pulitzer Prizes, for his iconic 1972 picture of a badly burned Vietnamese girl fleeing an aerial napalm attack.

Faas was a brilliant planner, able to score journalistic scoops by anticipating "not just what happens next but what happens after that", as one colleague put it.

His reputation as a demanding taskmaster and perfectionist belied a humanistic streak he was loath to admit, while helping less fortunate ex-colleagues and other causes. He was widely read on Asian history and culture, and assembled an impressive collection of Chinese Ming porcelain, bronzes and other treasures.

In later years Faas turned his training skills into a series of international photojournalism symposiums.

Faas also helped to organise reunions of the wartime Saigon press corps, and was attending a combination of those events when he became ill in Hanoi on May 4 2005.

He was hospitalised first in Bangkok and then in Germany, where doctors traced his permanent paralysis from the waist down to a spinal haemorrhage caused by blood-thinning heart medication.

Although requiring a wheelchair, he continued to travel to photo exhibits and other professional events, mainly in Europe.

Faas also made two arduous trips to the United States, in 2006 and 2008.

His health deteriorated in late 2008. Hospitalised in February for treatment of skin problems, he also underwent gastric surgery.

Faas' Vietnam coverage earned him the Overseas Press Club's Robert Capa Award and his first Pulitzer in 1965. Receiving the honours in New York, he said his mission was to "record the suffering, the emotions and the sacrifices of both Americans and Vietnamese in ... this little bloodstained country so far away".

Burly but agile, Faas spent much time in the field and on December 6, 1967, was wounded in the legs by a rocket-propelled grenade at Bu Dop, in South Vietnam's Central Highlands. He might have bled to death had not a young US Army medic managed to stem the flow.

He often teamed with Pulitzer Prize-winning AP reporter Peter Arnett to produce powerful and exclusive reports such as the 1969 story of Company A, an army unit that balked at orders to move against the enemy.

Faas witnessed the "combat refusal" incident during an effort to reach the site of a helicopter crash that had killed seven US soldiers and AP staff photographer Oliver Noonan.

Born in Berlin on April 28, 1933, Faas grew up during the Second World War and like all young German boys was required to join the Hitler Youth organisation.

Years later, he wrote that Allied air raids and "the fascinating spectacle of anti-aircraft action in the sky" were part of daily life, as was being required "to stand at attention in school and listen to an announcement that the father or older brother of a classmate had died for fuhrer and Fatherland".

As the war ended in 1945, the family fled north to avoid the Russian advance on Berlin and two years later escaped to Munich in West Germany.

In 1960, at 27 and an AP photographer for four years, Faas began his front-line reporting career in the Congo, then Algeria. In 1962 he was reassigned to the growing war in Vietnam where he landed on the same day as Arnett.

Faas left Saigon in 1970 to become AP's roving photographer for Asia, based in Singapore, ranging widely on assignments.

He teamed with New Zealander Arnett on a cross-country reporting tour of the United States as seen by foreigners, and covered the 1972 Munich Olympics where he photographed a ski-masked Palestinian terrorist on the balcony of the building where Israeli athletes were being held hostage, hours before they were murdered at the airport.

The same year, he won a second Pulitzer Prize, along with Michel Laurent of the French Gamma photo agency, for gripping pictures of torture and executions in Bangladesh.

In 1976, Faas relocated to London as AP's senior photo editor for Europe, until he retired from the news agency in 2004.