War photographer Horst Faas dies
Published 10/05/2012 | 22:52
Horst Faas, a prize-winning combat photographer who carved out new standards for covering war with a camera and became one of the world's legendary photojournalists, has died at 79.
A native of Germany who joined the US-based news co-operative The Associated Press there in 1956, Faas photographed wars, revolutions, the Olympic Games and events in between. But he was best known for covering Vietnam, where he was severely wounded in 1967 and won four major photo awards including the first of his two Pulitzer Prizes.
As chief of AP's photo operations in Saigon for a decade beginning in 1962, Faas covered the fighting while recruiting and training new talent from among foreign and Vietnamese freelancers. The result was "Horst's army" of young photographers, who fanned out with Faas-supplied cameras and film and stern orders to "come back with good pictures".
His reputation as a demanding taskmaster and perfectionist belied a humanistic streak he was loath to admit, while helping less fortunate ex-colleagues and other causes. He was widely read on Asian history and culture, and assembled an impressive collection of Chinese Ming porcelain, bronzes and other treasures.
In later years Faas turned his training skills into a series of international photojournalism symposiums.
He was hospitalised first in Bangkok and then in Germany, where doctors traced his permanent paralysis from the waist down to a spinal haemorrhage caused by blood-thinning heart medication. Although requiring a wheelchair, he continued to travel to photo exhibits and other professional events, mainly in Europe. Faas also made two arduous trips to the United States, in 2006 and 2008. His health deteriorated in late 2008. Hospitalised in February for treatment of skin problems, he also underwent gastric surgery.
Faas' Vietnam coverage earned him the Overseas Press Club's Robert Capa Award and his first Pulitzer in 1965. Receiving the honours in New York, he said his mission was to "record the suffering, the emotions and the sacrifices of both Americans and Vietnamese in ... this little bloodstained country so far away".
He often teamed with Pulitzer Prize-winning AP reporter Peter Arnett to produce powerful and exclusive reports such as the 1969 story of Company A, an army unit that balked at orders to move against the enemy. He teamed with New Zealander Arnett on a cross-country reporting tour of the United States as seen by foreigners, and covered the 1972 Munich Olympics where he photographed a ski-masked Palestinian terrorist on the balcony of the building where Israeli athletes were being held hostage, hours before they were murdered at the airport.
The same year, he won a second Pulitzer Prize, along with Michel Laurent of the French Gamma photo agency, for gripping pictures of torture and executions in Bangladesh.
In 1976, Faas relocated to London as AP's senior photo editor for Europe, until he retired from the news agency in 2004.