The Digital Journalist
Remembering Eddie
October 2004

by Nick Ut

Though grieving for his dear friend, Eddie Adams, Pulitzer Prize-winning AP photographer Nick Ut shared a few thoughts of his "brother" with The Digital Journalist.

When Eddie Adams' obituary was written, it failed to mention one survivor: his "brother," Nick Ut.

"Eddie always called me 'my brother Nick' and introduced me to others as 'my young brother' and 'little baby Nick.' We were good friends - like family," Ut recalls. "Eddie was my special brother. I love him so much."

After Nick's older brother, Thanh My, was killed in Vietnam photographing the war for the AP, Eddie took Nick under his wing, looked after his family and, Nick says, "kept my brother's memory alive." He always promised Nick, "I will take care of you."

They share a legacy, having shot the two most indelible images of the Vietnam War: Eddie's photo of the infamous Saigon street execution, and Nick's of the "napalm girl," Kim Phuc. Both iconic images, seared into our collective memories of the war, won these special friends Pulitzer Prizes and many other top awards.

It is said that Eddie never liked to speak of his photo with others, but he did with Nick; such was their bond. They would often talk about Vietnam, about Nick's brother and family, about their shared legacy.

Nick says, "Eddie always told me, 'it's just you and me, Nicky. After the whole history of Vietnam is written, it'll just be our photos.'"

Years passed, but their friendship and loyalty only deepened. Indeed, Nick Ut has the rare distinction of never having ended up on Eddie's notorious "shit list," as so many friends did from time to time. "Almost every year, I went to his photo workshop," Nick says. "He got mad at me if I didn't come to it."

Nick acknowledges that, at times, "Eddie was a very difficult friend." Eddie seemed to shadowbox with his well-documented habit of rebuffing friends and colleagues so frequently. He'd ask Nick, "Why is it everyone gets along with you?" Nick told him, "I try to be nice to everyone."

About two years ago, Nick gently scolded his friend: "Eddie, you've lost so many friends. Why don't you be nicer to people?" Eddie, Nick says, seemed truly troubled and promised him, "I'll try."

Eddie and Nick spoke all the time and when Eddie was shooting for Parade magazine, they met nearly every month for years when his celebrity shoots brought him to Los Angeles. "I will miss him so much," Nick says with profound sadness. "He'd often put his hand on my head and say, 'I love you.'"

Shortly before he died, Eddie asked Nick to come see him in New York. He made the difficult journey and stayed with "my special brother" for two days, holding Eddie's hand and talking, sharing memories. Nick says that Eddie told him, "When I die, I'll bring a camera."

As a parting gift, Eddie gave his friend a print of his Pulitzer Prize-winning photo and inscribed it, "to my brother, Nick."

© Nick Ut

Nick Ut is a longtime AP photographer, based in Los Angeles. He won the Pulitzer Prize and World Press Photo Award in 1973.