New Kensington Art Gallery to open Eddie Adams photography exhibit May 8

May 04, 2016

UPPER BURREL, Pa. – “Saigon Execution,” the world-famous photograph that helped turn American opinion against the Vietnam War, is one of the many works of the late photojournalist Eddie Adams that will be on display beginning May 8 and continuing throughout the summer in the Penn State New Kensington Art Gallery.

The exhibit, “Eddie Adams: Vietnam,” features more than 50 photographs from the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer’s collection. A reception is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 28, in the art gallery. Eddie’s widow, Alyssa Adams, will be on hand to talk about her late husband. Hal Buell of the Associated Press is the special guest speaker. Buell, a veteran photo editor, spent 41 years with the Associated Press. He led its worldwide photo operation for 25 of those years, managing an international picture system that existed from the days of flash powder to the use of digital cameras and transmission systems. The exhibit and reception are free to the public. The gallery is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and noon to 5 p.m. weekends.

In a more than 50-year career as a working photographer, Adams covered 13 wars, from Korea to Vietnam to Kuwait. In Korea, he was in the Marine Corps as a combat photographer. During Vietnam, he did three tours working for The Associated Press.

He won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for spot news photography for a shot of a Vietnamese general executing a Viet Cong prisoner on the second day of the Tet Offensive. The 35 mm photo was instrumental to the rise of protest demonstrations against the war.

The photograph was not a favorite of Adams because it did not tell the whole story. General Nguyen Ngoc Loan was reacting to the prisoner’s complicity in the recent murders of Loan’s aide and American soldiers. Adams was disturbed by the anti-war movement usurping his work.
The Adams photograph that was a favorite and affected change in America was a part of his 1979 series about people of Vietnam fleeing their homeland. “Boat of No Smiles” featured about 48 men, women and children on a 30-foot fishing boat in the Gulf of Siam headed for Thailand. The boat reached its destination but was turned away and towed back out to sea by the Thailand military. The photo shows a Vietnamese woman aboard a refugee boat using a blanket to shelter herself and her child from the hot sun. Adams’ depiction of the “boat people” prompted President Jimmy Carter and Congress to allow more than 200,000 Vietnamese refugees into the United States.

In addition to his combat work, Adams photographed numerous presidents, world leaders and celebrities. He worked for Parade for 12 years as special correspondent, and his work appeared on the cover of the magazine more than 350 times.

A New Kensington native, Adams died in 2004 in New York City from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, at the age of 71.

The exhibit runs until Aug. 27. The photographs are powerful and may elicit strong emotions in viewers. Parents are advised to tour the exhibit before deciding if it is appropriate for their children.

Prior to coming to New Kensington, the traveling show was featured in the Dublin Art Council in Ohio. The collection is permanently housed at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. Alyssa donated the photographic archive, which includes slides, negatives, prints, audio and video materials, news stories, diaries, notes and tear sheets.

For more information about the exhibit and reception, call 724-334-6056.

  • Eddie Adams

    Photojournalist Eddie Adams arrives in Vietnam in 1965, the first of three tours for the world-renown photographer.

    IMAGE: Eddie Adams: Vietnam

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Last Updated May 16, 2016