Vietnam Through the Lens of Larry Burrows

Photograph of Larry Burrows taken during Operation Deckhouse, February 1967 (Marine Corps Photograph/National Archives).
Photograph of Larry Burrows taken during Operation Deckhouse, February 1967 (Marine Corps Photograph/National Archives).

A fellow war photographer recalls the humble but legendary camera master.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This post contains only a snippet of this article. Please purchase the Spring 2010 issue of The Quarterly Journal of Military History to read the entire article.

I first met Larry Burrows in Da Nang, South Vietnam, just before the marines landed on Red Beach, north of the city, on March 8, 1965. United Press International had posted me there, in my first out-of-town job, and for that matter my first job as a photographer, just a month into the profession, to ensure we did not get scooped by the Associated Press and its new staffer Eddie Adams, a prize-winning veteran in our business. I was worse than green, with stiff boots and fatigues, and little concept of what I was supposed to do or shoot.

Larry immediately took me under his wing; he probably saw in me a fellow limey lad as unschooled as he had been when he started in our trade in the 1940s. A father figure of gentle benevolence, he tutted at the state of my gear. But he offered me rides in his jeep out to the marine chopper unit and on to the flight line; let me share his table and bask in his presence; offered up corrections, even occasional reprimands, but always in the spirit of a teacher determined to help his student along and keep him safe from harm.

In fact Larry Burrows was a quintessential gentleman, and probably the most compassionate photographer we will ever witness. And those traits translated to his work: His images have become timeless, his essays exemplary to any budding photojournalist. His meticulous style, both in black and white and in color, employed methods that will be taught for a long, long time, even in this age of fleeting digital imaging; fortunately his work is frozen in time on negatives, transparencies, and prints.

To view the remainder of this article, including photographs taken by Larry Burrows during the Vietnam War, please purchase the Spring 2010 issue of The Quarterly Journal of Military History. 

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