The Man in the Black Fedora
[ By Jill Waterman ]
Eddie Adams had the Midas touch for
capturing some of the 20th century’s
most indelible images.
From his gritty Vietnam coverage during
three tours of duty for the Associated
Press (AP) to more than 350 portraits of
the world’s most celebrated figures pro-
duced for the cover of Parade magazine, Adams enjoyed a
prolific career spanning journalism, editorial, corporate,
fashion, entertainment and advertising photography.
His most iconic image—the 1968 Pulitzer Prize–
winning frame showing the street-corner execution of a
Vietcong prisoner by the Saigon government’s national
chief of police—was also his most infamous. Although it
was hastily captured at 1/500 of a second, Adams knew
he had something important while waiting for the film
to be developed. Yet once the image was released to the
world, his bluster over getting the shot became polarized
by a responsibility to haunt him for the rest of his career.
This photograph, which was widely credited with changing public opinion about the conflict, had universal
impact in putting a human face on the cruelty of war.
Nine months after making this picture, Adams left
Vietnam for good. He returned to Southeast Asia in 1977
for a story on refugees attempting to flee Communist
rule by setting out to sea in small fishing boats. That
coverage, “The Boat of No Smiles,” would later play an
important role in the U.S. government’s decision to open
its doors to 200,000 Vietnamese. Adams considered this
to be the most positive and productive story of his career.
Besides his work behind the lens, in 1988 Adams
co-founded the Eddie Adams Workshop (EAW), offering 100 students and emerging photographers
a unique forum for learning and inspiration. Each
October, more than 150 top photography professionals mentor ten workshop teams during an intensive,
four-day gathering at Adams’s farm in upstate New
York, with Nikon serving as official sponsor.
In 2012, EAW will celebrate its 25th anniversary,
and student applications are being accepted through
May 25. This tuition-free workshop is one of the most
valuable opportunities available to work directly with
leaders in the field. To submit your work for consideration, visit < www.eddieadamsworkshop.com>. EDU
HEROIC MEASURES: (Above) Besides photographing Clint East wood
for the cover of Parade magazine, Adams was hired to shoot the poster
for his 1992 film, Unforgiven. (At left) Adams was on his belly hiding
from sniper fire when making this 1965 image of a mother and child in
flight, his favorite image at the time according to a citation in his book.
Eddie Adams: Vietnam was published by Umbrage Editions in 2008.