Friday, 22 May 2009


My obit of Hugh Van Es, famed for his shot of the helicopter on the roof during the fall of Saigon, is in today's Independent, here. The editors chose the day well, as today his life will be celebrated at Hong Kong's Foreign Correspondents' Club, as he would have wished.

My original lede said a bit more about the contrast with the way the Vietnam war is noted for being the first beamed into the world's living rooms via television, but our perceptions of it were shaped, and our memories of it remain linked, to a number of very significant photographs. The contrast between the Vietnam war photo-journalists, and the embedded coverage of, say, Iraq, is telling. Where are the equivalents of his staggering shots from Hamburger Hill, in 1969? The scenes were there to be captured. Instead, the most important photos of the current debacle came from the cell-phones of prison guards. That's where we've gone in forty years.

I should also point out that Kirsten Ellis worked for the South China Morning Post in the mid-80s, which is when she knew Vanes, but the piece as edited makes it seem like she's there now, which of course she's not. The photo left shows Van Es, in the light-coloured jacket and Van Dyck beard, at the HKFCC, about the time Kirsten was there. Interestingly, the guy to his immediate right is Mike Keats of UPI, who gave me my first break in journalism, in London way back in 1977.

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