May 2012

by Dirck Halstead

I knew Horst Faas well. When I first arrived in South Vietnam in the spring of 1965 to create the UPI photo bureau, I was advised, while in the field, to study the movements of the AP photo bureau chief. I should: go where Horst goes, try to get pictures as good as his, and never go where he never goes.

The truth and power of Horst's career is his legacy in pictures. If you want to read a fine obituary, read AP's senior writer Richard Pyle's story.

I want to show my respect, by just focusing on the last years of his life. In 2005, Horst attended a reunion in Saigon of photographers, filmmakers and reporters who had covered the Vietnam War. It was a small group, as all too many had fallen while doing their job.

Women and children crouch in a muddy canal as they take cover from intense Vietcong fire in Bao Trai, Vietnam in 1966. (Horst Faas/Associated Press)

Horst and Tim Page devoted several years to collecting the images of these brave journalists and together they published an exceptional book. It was a tribute to these men and women who had paid the ultimate price.

After the reunion, Horst flew to Hanoi to teach a workshop for young Vietnamese photographers. He had just arrived when he was stricken by a life threatening paralysis which extended from his chest down. Flown immediately to Bangkok his life was saved.

It was from this point on that we all began to marvel at his strength of will and character. During the years he was confined to a wheelchair or hospital bed, he continued to contribute to his profession.

His wheelchair was a challenge, as it would be for anyone who had spent a physically robust life. But that wheelchair was never an obstacle. It could never confine his immense spirit. He managed to travel the world, attend countless festivals, and was one of the most honored photojournalists in the history of our craft.

He remained just the way he always was, and will be remembered as the real thing.

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