Shot Seen ’Round the World



The film An Unlikely Weapon examines the career of photographer Eddie Adams, who will always be best known for this photo. It’s one of two images (the other – not his — of a naked Vietnamese girl running from a napalmed village) that were pivotal in changing American public opinion against the Vietnam war. Taken in Saigon during the Tet offensive in 1968, the man being executed was a member of the Viet Cong who reportedly killed three Americans. The man with the pistol is South Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan. But that’s just some of the truth. The photo brought shame to Nguyen and his family, ruining his career and affecting them for decades. Adams publicly apologized to him for the photo, but there was nothing remarkable about the way Adams took the shot. He followed action in the streets and raised his camera instinctively to shoot at the right moment. It’s what he did throughout a long career, in which he reported on 13 wars. Even though he is known for countless shots of celebrities (mostly taken in the latter part of his career in New York City) and photographed nudes for Penthouse for several years, he was an uncannily good war correspondent. He won a Pulitzer Prize and was even recommended for a commendation during Vietnam by an Army general after he carried a wounded soldier to a helicopter to get medical help. And he was never satisfied with his work. An Unlikely Weapon is an unfortunate title for this film, but it does suggest the power of photographic images. The film looks back on Adams’ astounding career (he died in 2004), and much of it focuses on being a photographer in a war zone — as a job, not as a pro- or anti-war proposition. The film screens at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at the CAC as part of the New Orleans Film Festival. The Web site for the film is here.

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