Discuss two of the following concepts, theories or critical models in relation to photography (time, the ‘look’ or ‘gaze’, studium and punctum, semiotics, intertextuality). Make an analysis of a photographic image or images related to your chosen concepts. Fully contextualise your chosen example.
“…The soldiers stopped and backed away. I saw a man walk into my camera viewfinder from the left. He took a pistol out of his holster and raised it. I had no idea he would shoot. It was common to hold a pistol to the head of prisoners during questioning. So I prepared to make that picture- the threat, the interrogation. But it didn’t happen. The man just pulled a pistol out of his holster, raised it to the Vietcong’s head and shot him in the temple. I made a picture at the same time.” Eddie Adams remembers the frozen moment Saigon Execution was captured, the moment that sparked the realisation of the brutality of the Vietnam War. The image was made on a Saigon street corner on 1st February 1968, showing Brigadier- General Nguyen Ngoc Loan shooting a Vietcong prisoner through the head at close range, the prisoner, a husband and father, Nguyen Van Lam. (Image 1) Collected stories surrounding why the victim was killed diverge from namely being a traitor working for both sides (the Vietcong and the South Vietnamese police) to being shot on account for killing many South Vietnamese and Americans. This photograph became and still is iconic in news reportage, and aroused long- running debates about the ethics of photojournalism. Did hiding behind the lens of a camera exclude the photographer from the harsh realities of what was happening, and distance the emotion felt when taking the photograph? The Vietnam War presented many ethical and moral situations not only for
Publishing Saigon Execution ‘symbolised the violence and pathos of the Vietnam War in a single image’ (Val Williams, 2004), criteria Eddie Adams set out to accomplish, only finding the perfect, meaningful photograph after years in this lifelong career.
A year later in 1969,
In terms of Intertextuality where the relationships between Saigon Execution and other works are defined, Adams’ main body of work revolves around war photojournalism; other photographs in his lifelong career include coverage of thirteen wars, six American presidents and nearly every major film star as well as contributing to magazines such as Parade and Time. Boat of No Smiles (1977) was another work Eddie Adams created during the Vietnam War of a woman sheltering herself and her child from the sun aboard a refugee boat in the
Described as his best friend and brother, Nick Ut, creator of the famously classic Napalm Girl photograph (1972) shares the title along with Saigon Execution for the most iconic pictures from the whole of the
‘Zeitgeist- the spirit of the time; the general trend of thought or feeling characteristic of a particular period of time.’ The aspect of time in any part of photography is vital in not only the manual production of a film- based image but critical to the reading of the subject likewise. In the present age, digital photography is predominantly used rather than film, the ability to edit photographs after they are taken in a wide spectrum of ways as is the case for digital photographs, this technique has become prevalently more popular; digital photography has changed the viewer’s aspect of time. Film- based photography has a bigger sense of when the image was taken; a nostalgic memory is something eminent in an old black and white film photograph. Photography is specific to the time it was taken, as quoting Roland Barthes: ‘a photograph was made there but is here now.’ Holding photographs that were made before the time the beholder was born is magical and referring back to Saigon Execution, however gruesome the image is to look at, whether from the zeitgeist of the image or the present, people will still experience similar feelings towards the photograph.
Of the time, the immediate reactions to the work would be fright, a sense of panic that the viewer could be held prisoner/shot just as the figure in the photograph is, fearful of personal safety and the safety of friends and family, and anger towards the lack of peace. Most of these emotions can still be transferred into the present; anger towards war is still strong with conflict in
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Horst Faas. (2004). The Saigon Execution. Available: http://digitaljournalist.org/issue1410/faas.html. Last Accessed14th Mar 2012.
Lewis Hine in Halla Beloff, Basil Blackwell (1985), Camera Culture, p.100.
Nick Ut. (2004). Remembering Eddie. Available: http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0410.ut.html. Last accessed 25th Mar 2012.
Phillip Knightley. (1975). The First Casualty. United States: Andre Deutsch Limited.
Random House Dictionary. (2012). Zeitgeist. Available: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/zeitgeist. Last accessed 22nd Mar 2012.
Val Williams. (2004). Eddie Adams- Photojournalist of the Vietnam War. Available: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/eddie-adams-6160780.html. Last accessed 14th Mar 2012
Wikipedia. (2012) Eddie Adams (Photographer). Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Adams_(photographer). Last accessed 25th Mar 2012.