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Culture

Dutch photographer of fall of Saigon dies

Latest update : 2009-05-16

Dutch photographer Hugh Van Es (left in picture) died of a brain haemorrhage, aged 67. His photograph showing a CIA helicopter airlifting US soldiers out of Saigon in 1975 became an icon for the end of the Vietnam War and its ultimate failure.

AFP - Hugh Van Es, the Dutch photographer whose photo of the 1975 fall of Saigon became one of the most enduring images of the Vietnam war, died on Friday. He was 67.
  
Van Es suffered a brain haemorrhage last week in Hong Kong, where he had lived for many years, and never regained consciousness, colleagues said.
  
The Dutchman was part of what became a famous generation of journalists who covered the Vietnam war, many of whom paid tribute Friday to his courage, talent and personality.
  
"His sunny demeanour endeared him to his colleagues and to the American and Vietnamese soldiers he photographed," veteran war correspondent Peter Arnett told AFP.
  
Arnett called him "one of the few Western photographers willing to take the risks of witnessing the war's end."
  
Van Es became known worldwide for his photograph of a helicopter rescuing people from what is often believed to be the roof of the US embassy in Saigon. In fact the photo shows an apartment building that housed CIA staff.
  
He wrote in the New York Times in 2005: "One of the best-known images of the Vietnam war shows something other than what almost everyone thinks it does."
  
The photograph became a symbol of the US withdrawal and its ultimate failure in Vietnam, and it made him famous.
  
Arnett, who stood beside Van Es as he took the photograph on April 29, 1975 called it "the picture that secured his place in popular culture and the photographic history of the Vietnam war."
  
Van Es was born in the Netherlands on July 6, 1941. He decided on his career after seeing an exhibition by legendary combat photographer Robert Capa and made his way to Hong Kong in 1967 and then on to Vietnam.
  
After the Vietnam war he returned to Hong Kong -- a perch he used to cover events across Asia, including the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the fall of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines.
  
Van Es was modest about his storied career, and younger journalists who passed through the halls of Hong Kong's Foreign Correspondents' Club knew him not from his tale-telling but only by his trademark photographer's vest.
  
Former CNN producer Robert Wiener, who also worked in Vietnam, told AFP that Van Es's professional skill was just one side to him.
  
"Hugh was in a class by himself in many respects. His generosity of spirit and compassion were limitless," Wiener

Date created : 2009-05-15

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