On Oct. 9, award-winning photojournalists Nick Ut and Raul Roa shared their stories with California State University San Bernardino (CSUSB) faculty and students, in a conversational format on stage at the SMSU Theater.
Nick Ut’s 1972 Pulitzer Prize winning photograph the “Terror of War,” (commonly referred to as the Napalm Girl) was a central focus of Ut’s talk which highlighted his 51 years as an Associated Press (AP) photographer.
Ut, a Vietnam native, began his photojournalism career in 1965, just weeks after his beloved brother, Huynh Thanh My, also an AP photographer, was killed during combat photography.
Ut’s photos capture the agony and horror of war, but none more poignantly than the “Terror of War,” which graphically demonstrates the impact of battle on men, women and children, and in this case most particularly, a 9-year old girl by the name of Phan Thi Kim Phuc.
The photo, taken on June 8, 1972, often referred to as “Napalm Girl,” was captured by Ut just as the Mekong Delta, Trang Bang Vietnam area was being bombed with napalm. Kim Phuc, was running down Highway 1 from the small village in the Mekong Delta, right towards Ut and fellow photojournalists.
There were women carrying babies and other school-aged children running toward Ut, but 9-year old Kim Phuc was naked, running and screaming, “Too hot! Too hot!”
Ut saw Kim Phuc and realized that she had been critically burned by napalm. He and other photojournalists poured water on Kim Phuc to ease her pain. Ut knew that if he didn’t get this little girl to a hospital quickly, she would die from her injuries. He took her along with others in his van, and they rushed to the nearest hospital for help.
If it had not been for this heroic action by Ut, Kim Phuc’s life would have surely ended on that fateful day.
Ut’s photo became an iconic image representing the horrors of war, and it influenced public opinion globally. He is appreciated and valued by many as one of the most highly praised photojournalists in the world covering the devastation and loss of life during the Vietnam war.
His work has influenced many photojournalists, and Raul Roa is one of them. Roa, a Los Angeles Times photojournalist, has spent the last 24 years covering important news and sporting events all over Southern California.
Roa and Ut have collaborated on various photographic efforts throughout the years, and they share a strong love of the craft.
Roa shared his work and gave advice at CSUSB. “Bring the news to the people,” said Roa, “You are the eyes and ears of your communities, stay humble, honest and diligent.”
His work included strong, impactful images full of emotion. He explained the importance of taking an impactful image like the one Ut took in 1972.
“As long as you affect one person, you can start changing people’s minds,” said Roa.
Roa addressed how the development of social media has changed the way photojournalists work, “There are images that are transcendent and it doesn’t matter whether they are online or printed. It will still impact. Social media just spreads it out farther and wider, therefore it affects more people.”
With photos now becoming permanent Roa says, “Be conscious of your subject, you have a responsibility to tell their story in a way that is impartial and reliable.”
Although Ut has now retired and Roa stays busy with his work, the two spend their free time together “shooting the moon.” Their astrophotography has become one of their favorite pastimes. The two have even taken to call themselves “Lunartics.”
Between these two photojournalists, so many important events have been captured and delivered to the world. Now they are capturing images beyond our planet.