Huỳnh Công Út, known professionally as Nick Ut, was born March 29, 1951. He is a photographer for the Associated Press (AP) who works out of the Los Angeles bureau.
His best known photo is the Pulitzer Prize-winning picture of Phan Thị Kim Phúc, who was photographed as a 9-year-old girl running naked toward the camera to flee a South Vietnamese napalm attack on invading North Vietnamese at the Trảng Bàng village during the Vietnam War.
Born in Long An, Viet Nam, Ut began to take photographs for the Associated Press when he was 16, just after his older brother Huynh Thanh My, another AP photographer, was killed in Vietnam. Ut himself was wounded three times in the war. Ut has since worked for the Associated Press in Tokyo, South Korea and Hanoi and still maintains contact with Kim Phuc, who now resides in Canada.
Before delivering his film with the Kim Phúc photo, he took her to the hospital. The publication of the photo was delayed due to the AP bureau's debate about transmitting a naked girl's photo over the wire:
"...an editor at the AP rejected the photo of Kim Phuc running down the road without clothing because it showed frontal nudity. Pictures of nudes of all ages and sexes, and especially frontal views were an absolute no-no at the Associated Press in 1972...Horst argued by telex with the New York head-office that an exception must be made, with the compromise that no close-up of the girl Kim Phuc alone would be transmitted. The New York photo editor, Hal Buell, agreed that the news value of the photograph overrode any reservations about nudity."
Audiotapes of then-president Richard Nixon in conversation with his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, show that Nixon doubted the veracity of the photograph, musing whether it may have been "fixed." Following the release of this tape, Ut commented:
"Even though it has become one of the most memorable images of the twentieth century, President Nixon once doubted the authenticity of my photograph when he saw it in the papers on June 12, 1972.... The picture for me and unquestionably for many others could not have been more real. The photo was as authentic as the Vietnam war itself. The horror of the Vietnam war recorded by me did not have to be fixed. That terrified little girl is still alive today and has become an eloquent testimony to the authenticity of that photo. That moment thirty years ago will be one Kim Phuc and I will never forget. It has ultimately changed both our lives."
Ut is a United States citizen and is married with two children. He currently lives in Los Angeles and remains an AP photographer.