Napalm Girl


June 8 is an important day for photographer Nick Ut. Not only is it the 42nd anniversary of his classic Vietnam photo “Napalm Girl,” it’s also the seventh anniversary of “Paris Hilton Getting Arrested,” the other famous photograph in his portfolio. In 35 years, he went from a Pulitzer-winning AP photojournalist to an LA celebrity photographer, and he doesn’t regret a thing.


Napalm Girl, 1972

Taken by Huynh Cong Ut, this photograph of the devastating impact of a napalm attack is the most iconic image of the Vietnam War. The girl in the center of the photograph is 9-year old Kim Phúc, who is running away from the attack with severe burns. x

During the 20th century photojournalism emerged as the master medium for iconic images. One particularly stands out: Nick Ut’s 1972 ‘Napalm Girl’. Despite frequently being labelled the ‘first television war’, photojournalism both defined and influenced the Vietnam conflict. Video has prevailed in recent wars, but no image from these is as iconic. I believe that it is photography’s ability to capture ‘the Decisive Moment’ that makes it so powerful.

Napalm Girl captured such a moment. It is one of the world’s most recognised and reproduced images, so famous that in a recent print advert Leica paid homage to it simply by name. It compels emotional engagement: few know the girl’s name, but most can feel her pain and what it symbolises. Its pervasive dissemination in the USA and beyond reflected growing opposition to the war. It represents the stealing of naked innocence and the resulting terror. Napalm Girl continues to represent the Vietnam War in modern memory: it is the ultimate symbol of the inability of the mighty US to fight a clean war without extensive collateral damage. It did not end the war, but its iconic power helps to ensure its legacy. This little girl will not go away.


I leave you tonight with some history. A famous Time photo from the Vietnam war of children running from a napalm attack. The nude girl is the most famous, she was simply known as Napalm Girl. The second photo is of the Vietnamese film crew interviewing her as a person seams to be attending to her burns. The white areas on her back a peeled off skin. And lastly  Kim Phuc now, you can see the results of the napalm burns. She does an occasional tour to speak of her experiences.


Photographer Nick Ut Revisits the Place Where He Shot ‘Napalm Girl’


Was doing a bit of research for my dissertation and came across an article on this photo. I’ve known it well since we were shown it in a presentation at school about 8 years ago and since then it’s come up a lot at uni, especially since I started a dissertation on death. But I had no idea the photographer, Nick Ut, had taken the girl to hospital after he’d taken it. That’s her in the middle and him on the right in the second photo, taken 40 years later.

Made my quite happy to learn this having read quite a lot about photojournalism photographers who shot similar subjects then left (Kevin Carter’s shot of the starving girl being a prime example). I understand why people do it but still makes you start to wonder if photographers can be a bit heartless sometimes…

(article here)