This picture, titled “Saigon Execution,” won the Pulitzer prize in 1968. Pictured is a Vietnamese man about to be shot during the Vietnam War. The man holding the gun clearly looks like a member of the military. The photographer of this picture, Eddie Adams, later regretted this picture because it destroyed the life of the man aiming the gun. What has not been revealed in this picture is that the man being shot was actually the captain of a Vietcong “revenge squad” that had executed dozens of unarmed civilians earlier the same day. This picture instantaneously became an icon of the war’s savagery and made the official pulling the trigger the villain.
While you can’t exactly say that the Vietnamese army was the “good side” in the war, the fact remains that people saw this picture and naturally assumed that the man in the uniform was on the wrong side and was killing a civilian. Photojournalism is a wonderful branch of journalism. However, sometimes only photos are not enough. Had the photographer added a caption explaining what exactly was happening in this picture, the way it was perceived would have been very different. It would have made a difference in people forming their judgements and opinions on the war. Instead, a man who murdered innocent people was regarded as another nameless martyr. And the man who stopped him, by killing him, was branded as the villain.