Mis à jour le 28 avril 2014 par Michel PuechHorst Faas was a giant in the world of photojournalism with an extraordinary and unique talent for telling difficult stories” commented Santiago Lyon, Vice President and Director of Photography at the Associated Press.
Horst Faas died on Thursday, May 10, 2012 in Munich of complications from a stroke that had affected his back bone in May, 2005, while in Vietnam with his colleagues to honor the 30th anniversary celebrations of the end of the war. For Tim Page: “That was my last memory with him. We were there, and we can say we worked well during that war.”
Treated in Hanoi, then in Bangkok, then in Marnau in Germany, Horst Faas remained paralyzed in both legs. These past few years, and especially the past few months, he suffered from various infections related to the accident, but this handicap didn’t prevent him from reserving a room ten days ago for the upcoming photojournalism festival, Visa pour l’Image!
A legend interested in youth
Horst Faas “was not a man of the past” confided Hélène Gédouin of Hachette who edited his last book, “50 years of photojournalism”, published in 2008 and one about his friend Henri Huet published in 2006.
“He came regularly to Visa to be with the guys, he used to say” commented festival director Jean-François Leroy. Indeed, it was particularly impressive to meet, again last year, this 79 year old man who traveled from Munich to Perpignan in his wheelchair to witness, among other events, the press conference announcing the Prix Lucas Dolega. He loved Perpignan for its ability to recreate the emotions of the field, to see the year’s work, to meet with old time friends and chat with the new generation.
“The first time I saw him was 30 years ago” remembers Jérôme Delay, photographer and head of AP Photo for Africa. “I was still young, a stringer in Colorado where I traveled from London… I worked with him. He was the kind of person who knew how to estimate risks. One day, I was embedded in Iraq, he called me to tell me not to leave. The pope was dead, and he knew that there was no reason to risk my skin for a quarter of a page on page 27. He was a brother, a father, a mentor… He had amazing knowledge and enjoyed telling his best stories while sharing a good bottle of Bordeaux wine.”
An eagle’s eye
“He had an eagle’s eye” said the very taciturn Henri Bureau (Reporters Associés, Gamma, Sygma, Corbis) who knew him in Saigon when, as a young photographer, he had just landed in Vietnam. “Everyone went to see him in Saigon. He was THE reference. He was indeed if not the greatest, definitely one of the greatest I’ve known, alongside David Duncan and McCullin. In Saigon, he managed an army of photographers, selecting in an instant the best picture from a negative strip, still wet…”
Christian Simonpietri (Gamma, Sygma, Corbis), lived in Saigon. He doesn’t remember when he met Horst Faas for the first time. “I was very close to Henri Huet, so I must have seen him as soon as he arrived in Vietnam. He wasn’t a regular at the Continental Hotel where we all got together to have a drink. He didn’t partake in all of the parties. Then I ran into him in Pakistan, I was there with him and Michel Laurent on December 18, 1971, in the Dacca stadium, a story that garnered his second Pulitzer Prize in 1972 (alongside Michel Laurent). He won the first one in 1965 for a story in Vietnam, two years before being injured.”
Two Pulitzer Prizes! He was the first photojournalist to have earned this double distinction, the most prestigious.
“He was a man who spoke little about himself” said Hélène Gédouin. “He could go on and on about photojournalism, pictures taken by others… I had contacted him when I started working on the stories shot by my uncle by marriage, Henri Huet. It was the year before his accident… Then we often worked together in the hospital. He loved young photographers and only wished his generation had enjoyed the technology of today. He was the first person to suggest using Skype to talk between two meetings. He was passionate about the news, photography and text. His artistic knowledge was impressive, he was also a collector of engravings, especially Asian.”
On the phone from Phnom Penh where he is currently working, Tim Page, very moved, also commented, “He taught me everything. He was a guide since my earliest days in Saigon in 1965. Vietnam provided a unique moment in photojournalism history… His book Requiem is the greatest book of the 20th century! Frankly, I now have the impression that I belong to a kind of Jurassic Park and only a few of us remain.”