Thanks Ann Curry!
We both graduated from Oregon high schools, and also started our professional careers there–it was a great launching pad! My love to my wife and business partner Rebecca and son Byron who are here, and also to my other two boys Nick and James who aren’t due to their educational responsibilities back home in California. Hurrah to my fellow honorees, particularly Bart Silverman whom I have known since 1969, and who is one of the most inspiring photographers on the planet. And a special thanks to Lucie Founder Hossein Farmani for creating this wonderful and significant award, co-founder Susan Baraz, and executive director Cat Jimenez .
I shouldn’t even be standing here. I went to Vietnam when I was 24 and after many close calls in combat did not expect to make 25. Everyday since has been a windfall.
But many of us weren’t that lucky. Right before I took off for Saigon in early 1971 to cover the war, a Vietnamese army helicopter carrying four photographers was shot down over Laos. Everyone was killed including Kent Potter of UPI, the person I was heading out there to replace. Another was Larry Burrows of LIFE Magazine. I never met him, but he had a huge impact on my career. His astonishing and dramatic photos from Vietnam struck a note with me that resound to this moment.
Forty years after that tragedy, my friend and colleague Chris Hondros, along with Tim Hetherington, perished in Libya covering the action. They, and so many other dedicated photographers died pursuing their passion.
It’s essential that real photographers roam the world casting light into corners where others fear to go. Their images carry emotion and insight directly to your heart and soul. A keen eye and the ability to condense a story into one searing image is irreplaceable. We will always need that cadre of professionals who hang it out there to show the truth.
Photographers who have documented the dark side of humanity also know the pain that lies beneath their photos. The pictures may never be able to convey the visceral experience of what it took to get them, or the photographer’s commitment to the importance of making these images.
We don’t make history, but our photographs help to change it. They inform, arouse, and inspire action. They tell stories that range from the joy of life to tragedy. We are the witnesses who keep history’s visual flame. It is our charge to accurately and honestly portray those whom we photograph, and to create pictures that are fair, objective and made with a compassionate eye.
I salute those who continue to take photos that startle the world, pictures that make us sit up and take notice. My deepest respect goes to those who died trying. Their sacrifice and their photographs have helped make the world a better place.