, Salem, MA


November 12, 2012

War photography exhibit debuts in Houston museum


Some are well-known — such as the Rosenthal’s picture and another AP photograph, of a naked girl running from a napalm attack during the Vietnam War taken in 1972 by Huynh Cong “Nick” Ut. Others, such as the Incinerated Iraqi, of a man’s burned body seen through the shattered windshield of his car, will be new to most viewers.

“The point of all the photographs is that when a conflict occurs, it lingers,” Tucker said.

The pictures hang on stark gray walls, and some are in small rooms with warning signs at the entrance designed to allow visitors to decide whether they want to view images that can be brutal in their honesty.

“It’s something that we did to that man. Americans did it, we did it intentionally and it’s a haunting picture,” Michels said of the image of the burned Iraqi that hangs inside one of the rooms.

In some images, such as Don McCullin’s picture of a U.S. Marine throwing a grenade at a North Vietnamese soldier in Hue, it is clear the photographer was in danger when immortalizing the moment. Looking at his image, McCullin recalled deciding to travel to Hue instead of Khe Sahn, as he had initially planned.

“It was the best decision I ever made,” he said, smiling slightly as he looked at the picture, explaining that he took a risk by standing behind the Marine.

“This hand took a bullet, shattered it. It looked like a cauliflower,” he said, pointing to the still-upraised hand that threw the grenade. “So the people he was trying to kill were trying to kill him.”

McCullin, who worked at that time for The Sunday Times in London, has covered conflicts all over the world, from Lebanon and Israel to Biafra. Now 77, McCullin says he wonders, still, whether the hundreds of photos he’s taken have been worthwhile. At times, he said, he lost faith in what he was doing because when one war ends, another begins.

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