Friday, February 22, 2013

On Eddie Adams' celebrated Vietnam photo

February 1, 1968. The Tet offensive. This iconic photo was one of the key images that helped turn US public opinion. As H. Bruce Franklin shows in Vietnam and Other American Fantasies, it was in turn an image that the powers that be worked hard to reverse. Hence, for instance, he argues that the infamous Russian roulette scene in The Dearhunter should be understood as part of the larger effort to transform memories of the Vietnam war, at the level of the image. The US ally, the South Vietnamese general who summarily executes a suspected 'VC' insurgent, is replaced with the image of the innocent US POW, forced by sadistic North Vietnamese guards to put a gun to his head. The victim of the war becomes the US soldier....Read about the history of the image and the photographer here. It's not the best commentary imaginable: the author's sympathy lies with Adams, the poor guy who viewed the execution up close. Not with the executed.

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