Influencing the United States to admit 200,000 Vietnamese refugees at the end of the Vietnam War through the series of photographs on the Vietnamese boat people, entitled, “Boat of No Smiles”, the American photographer and photojournalist, Eddie Adams, is best known for his iconic Vietnam photograph, “Saigon Execution”, which won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1969.
Celebrated as the God of photojournalism, Adams was born on June 12, 1933, in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. He began his photography career as a high school student in Kensington. During the Korean War, he worked as a Marine combat photographer, and in 1962, he joined the Associate Press (AP). After ten years, he left the AP for freelance work.
In 1976, Adams rejoined the AP as the first and only photographer to hold the title of special correspondent. From 1980 until his death, Adams was a photographer for “Parade” magazine, which featured more than 350 of his photos on its cover. While he was on assignment for the AP, he carried his camera through 150 operations in Vietnam. He also covered wars in Israel, Jordon, Egypt, Turkey, Cyprus, Portugal, Ireland, Lebanon and Kuwait.
Measuring 200 linear feet in size, the Eddie Adams Photographic Archive documents Adams’s career and includes “Saigon Execution”, the photograph of General Loan executing a Vietnamese prisoner in 1968. In addition to substantive coverage of the Vietnam War, the collection includes his in-depth features on poverty in America, the homeless, Mother Teresa, Brazil, alternative society, anti-war demonstrations and riots. The collection also includes his intimate portraits of such high-profile figures as Ronald Reagan, Fidel Castro, Malcolm X, Clint Eastwood, Bette Davis, Bill Cosby and Jerry Lewis.
During his lifetime, Adams was awarded more than 500 photojournalism awards including the George Polk Award for News photography in 1968, 1977, and 1978, the Robert Capa Gold Medal in 1977 and numerous awards from such organizations as World Press Photo, the National Press Photographers Association, Sigma Delta Chi and the Overseas Press Club.
On September 18, 2004, Eddie Adams died of Lou Gehrig’s disease at the age of 71, in New York City. His legacy is continued through Barnstorm: The Eddie Adams Workshop, the photography workshop he started in 1988.