Faas, Horst 1933-
FAAS, Horst 1933-
Born April 28, 1933, in Berlin, Germany; son of Adalbert and Gerda (Schulze) Faas; married Ursula Gerienne, May 22, 1964. Education: Attended Munich University.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Da Capo Press, Perseus Books Group, 11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142.
Keystone Photo Agency, Germany, clerk and darkroom assistant, 1951-55; Associated Press, photographer in Bonn, Germany, 1955-60, Congo, 1960-62, Algeria, 1962, Southeast Asia, 1962-74, became senior editor in London, England.
Overseas Press Club citations, 1963, 1964, 1971; special recognition awards, National Press Photographers Association, 1964, 1965; Robert Capa Award, Overseas Press Club, 1965; Pulitzer Prize for photography, 1965, for photography of Vietnam War, and 1972, for spot news photography in Bangladesh; Managing Editors Award, Associated Press, 1965; George Polk Memorial awards, 1967, 1971; National Headliners Award for photography, 1967, 1971; Sigma Delta Phi Award for photography, 1970; Silver Medal award, World Photo Contest News Photography, 1970; first prize, spot news and news pictures, National Press Photographers Association/University of Missouri, 1971.
(With Richard Pyle) Lost over Laos: A True Story of Tragedy, Mystery, and Friendship, Da Capo Press (Cambridge, MA), 2003.
Photojournalist Horst Faas is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who has taken photos all over the world for the Associated Press. Faas, who was wounded while working in Vietnam, has become famous for his work covering major military conflicts. Writing a profile on Faas for Vanity Fair, David Halberstam described the photographer as "smart, funny, and generous." Halberstam further noted that Peter Arnett, "who worked with Horst in countless combat situations, believed he had a sixth sense about a battlefield—where the action was going to come from, where to shoot the pictures from, and, above all, how to survive. Horst was not just a great photographer but a great reporter as well." An inventive photographer who knew how to survive in the battlefield, Faas used condoms to protect his film from the tropical conditions in the Mekong delta and carried dummy rolls which he handed over when his film was confiscated, keeping the real film out of sight. He kept a stash of U.S. dollars hidden in his knapsack to draw on in the event he was wounded and had to buy his way out after American troops had left. "The American military leadership loved him," wrote Halberstam, who further noted that United States commander William Westmoreland "adored Horst—this brave young foreigner who seemed to spend all his time in the field and whose photos did not seem particularly political."
Faas also became known for his kindness. In the early 1960s, for instance, a Vietnamese photographer working for Faas was killed. Faas felt responsible, and after the funeral the deceased man's father asked that Faas take his younger son, then age fifteen. Faas did, and treated the boy like his own child. The Americans called Faas's protégé Nick Ut; his real name was Huynh Cong Ut. Ut became an incredible photographer, and is famous for his picture of a young girl running naked from a napalm attack. The photo won the 1973 Pulitzer Prize.
Faas and Tim Page collaborated on Requiem: By the Photographers Who Died in Vietnam and Indochina, a volume that honors the 135 photographers killed or reported missing during the French and American Indochina wars. (Page was wounded four times during the conflict and was once declared dead.) The photographs contained in this volume were all taken by the photographers profiled, many of whom were killed shortly thereafter. In one instance, a photograph by a female photographer is followed by one showing her dead body torn by shrapnel. Newsweek reviewer Malcolm Jones, Jr., wrote that "often artful, almost always terrifying, these pictures land in your lap like a live grenade." Also included with various photographs are the stories these photojournalists wired in. Stacey M. Keeley, who reviewed the volume for School Library Journal, wrote that "through a camera, teens are given a realistic, unromanticized look at war."
In addition to the work of Western photojournalists, the book includes pictures by both South and North Vietnam photographers, including Vietcong combat photographers who developed their panoramic battle-field scenes under nearly impossible conditions. Faas and Page convinced Hanoi to reveal biographical information about these dead photographers and were also able to obtain permission to use their last images. New York Times Book Review contributor Malcolm W. Browne wrote that "the images from the opposing sides demonstrate one of the main differences between journalism as propaganda and journalism as truth. Photographers covering from the South Vietnamese side shot and published anything they saw, including atrocities committed by forces backing the Saigon government. The Communist photos, by contrast, depict their soldiers as brave, determined, victorious—but never cruel." The photographs used in the book toured the United States as a traveling exhibit after opening in the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
Faas collaborated with former Saigon Associated Press bureau chief Richard Pyle in writing Lost over Laos: A True Story of Tragedy, Mystery, and Friendship. Profiling four combat photographers who were the authors' friends, the book tells how the group was together when the Huey helicopter in which they were riding was shot down on the border of Vietnam and Laos on February 10, 1971. The final picture of these men was taken by photojournalist Sergio Ortiz, who was forced to relinquish his seat on the chopper when a South Vietnamese officer pulled rank. The journalists who died include Larry Burrows of Life, Henri Huet of the Associated Press, Kent Potter of United Press International, and Keisaburo Shimamoto of Newsweek.
Faas and Pyle returned to Laos twenty-seven years later to find the wreckage of the helicopter. They were successful and able to retrieve some of their friends' personal effects as well as their photographic equipment. A Publishers Weekly contributor called their journey one that "becomes a tribute to every journalist who covered the Vietnam War." Booklist contributor Bryce Christensen praised Lost over Laos as "a work of homage by journalists who have learned far more from their profession than how to beat a competitor to the newsroom."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 2003, Bryce Christensen, review of Lost over Laos: A True Story of Tragedy, Mystery, and Friendship, p. 965.
Fortune, December 8, 1997, review of Requiem, p. 268.
Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, summer, 1998, C. Zoe Smith, review of Requiem: By the Photographers Who Died in Vietnam and Indochina, p. 423.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2002, review of Lost over Laos, p. 1831.
Library Journal, January, 2003, Daniel K. Blewett, review of Lost over Laos, p. 134.
Military Review, March-April, 2004, George Ridge, review of Lost over Laos, p. 69.
News Photographer, June, 2003, review of Lost over Laos, p. 36.
Newsweek, October 20, 1997, Malcolm Jones, Jr., review of Requiem, p. 64.
New York Times Book Review, November 2, 1997, Malcolm W. Browne, review of Requiem, p. 28.
Photo District News, January, 2002, David Walker, "Battle Scars," p. 40.
Publishers Weekly, January 6, 2003, review of Lost over Laos, p. 48.
School Library Journal, April, 1998, Stacey M. Keeley, review of Requiem, p. 160.
Vanity Fair, October, 1997, David Halberstam, "Cameras Courageous," p. 252.
Virginia Quarterly Review, spring, 1998, review of Requiem, p. 61.*