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Larry Burrows Photo Essay Topics

Biography

Born in London, Larry Burrows began working in the city's press in 1942, first in the art department of the Daily Express; he soon learned photography and moved on to the darkrooms of the Keystone photography agency and LIFE. By 1961, Burrows had established himself as a staff photographer for LIFE and was covering the Vietnam War. Although he was a war correspondent for several international conflicts, including those in Lebanon, Iraq, Congo, and Cyprus, he is best known for his coverage of the war in Vietnam. Burrows did what he could to experience the war as a soldier: he flew combat missions with air crews, lived in military camps, and stayed at the front lines with the GIs during enemy fire. Such dedication eventually cost him his life, when his helicopter was shot down over Laos. LIFE ran Burrows's photographs from Vietnam frequently between 1962 and 1971, devoting many pages to his dramatic color photographs. Among his most important photo essays were "The Air War" (September 9, 1966) and "One Ride with Yankee Papa 13" (April 16, 1965). During his lifetime, his work was exhibited at the Royal Photographic Society in London, in 1971, and the Rochester Institute of Technology sponsored a traveling exhibition of his photography in 1972. He won many honors for his photography, including two Robert Capa Awards, the 1967 Magazine Photographer of the Year Award, and the 1967 British Press Picture of the Year Award.
Burrows's method of photojournalism was deliberate and meticulous, not dependent on chance and instinct. He carefully planned his photographs, dictating their scenario, setting, and composition on the basis of his observations of the battlefront, and often spending several days on a single image. Although his method may seem counter-intuitive for war photography, he captured many of the most effective and memorable images of the war in Vietnam.
Lisa Hostetler
Handy et al. Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection, New York: Bulfinch Press in association with the International Center of Photography, 1999, p. 210.

"Larry Burrows made a photograph that, for generations, has served as the most indelible, searing illustration of the horrors inherent in that long, divisive war — and, by implication, in all wars."

That's according to Ben Cosgrove, editor of LIFE.com. He is referring to the image above, made in 1966 and titled Reaching Out.

Sunday marks the 40th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords, which effectively ended U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, and is why Cosgrove brought Burrows' work to our attention. Historic images often get buried with time and are usually unearthed by anniversaries or tributes. And while many have seen Burrows' famed image capturing the superlatives of humanity, there is value in revisiting the scene.

Life photographer Larry Burrows (1926-1971) attaches cameras to helicopter Yankee Papa 13 prior to a mission during the Vietnam War in 1965. Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images hide caption

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Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Life photographer Larry Burrows (1926-1971) attaches cameras to helicopter Yankee Papa 13 prior to a mission during the Vietnam War in 1965.

Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

In the image, wounded Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jeremiah Purdie reaches out toward a stricken comrade after a fierce firefight south of the Demilitarized Zone in October 1966. The gesture demands the utmost compassion, while the landscape illuminates the apocalyptic nature of the conflict. It's the paradox of war; finding evidence of compassion within a hellish circumstance.

While the image itself is extraordinary, so is its story. As Cosgrove writes in his post LIFE Behind the Picture: Larry Burrows' "Reaching Out," 1966, the magazine didn't publish the image in 1966 but five years later in February 1971: the occasion, an article devoted to Larry Burrows, who was killed earlier that month in Laos at the age of 44. The helicopter crash that killed him also took photographers Henri Huet of the Associated Press, Kent Potter of United Press International and Keisaburo Shimamoto of Newsweek.

In the tribute to Burrows, Life's Far East Bureau Chief John Saar wrote: "The depth of his commitment and concentration was frightening. He could have been a surgeon or soldier or almost anything else, but he chose photography and was so dedicated that he saw the whole world in 35-mm exposures. Work was his life, eventually his death, and Burrows I think wouldn't have bitched."

To see a full gallery of Larry Burrows' work visitLIFE.com

  • Larry Burrows/€”Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

    Wounded Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jeremiah Purdie (center, with bandaged head) reaches toward a stricken comrade after a fierce firefight south of the Demilitarized Zone in Vietnam, October 1966.

  • Larry Burrows/€”Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

    A U.S. Marine in Vietnam, October 1966.

  • Larry Burrows/€”Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

    Four Marines recover the body of a fifth as their company comes under fire near Hill 484 in Vietnam, October 1966. At right is the French-born photojournalist Catherine Leroy (1945 -€“ 2006); she was cropped out of the version of this photo that originally ran in Life.

  • Larry Burrows/€”Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

    A dazed, wounded American Marine gets bandaged during Operation Prairie near the Demilitarized Zone during the Vietnam War, October 1966.

  • Larry Burrows/€”Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

    American Marines eat rations during a lull in the fighting near the Demilitarized Zone during the Vietnam War, October 1966.

  • Larry Burrows/€”Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

    American Marines receive the sacrament of Communion during a lull in the fighting near the Demilitarized Zone during the Vietnam War, October 1966.

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