On a more serious note, it is the essence of humanity he gets to immortalise that matters to him the most. “Napalm Girl may be the most famous photograph but there are also other photographs I took that day – and during the rest of the war – that documented what really happened,” said Ut, recounting that fateful day during the Vietnam War when he took the prize-winning picture. “I saw a baby who died in front of my camera and a small child with his skin coming off. When I heard the children (including Kim Phuc) screaming and running towards us, I took some pictures of them.”
When he realised she was shouting, “too hot, too hot”, he instinctively put down his camera and offered his own canteen of water for her to drink. He recalled pouring some water on her body as well, hoping to alleviate the pain – only to realise later on that water should not be poured on severe burns.
Amid the chaos of being in a war zone, he drove Kim, her brother (pictured to the left of her in the photograph) and other wounded children to the hospital in his Associated Press van, even brandishing his press pass to ensure they got the treatment they needed in a timely fashion. “I said, ‘If they die, I will make sure the world knows’,” he said.
Thanks to his quick actions, the children survived. Kim, who now lives in Canada, founded Kim Foundation International to provide aid to child victims of war. The duo remain friends to this day and sometimes even travel together to spread the message of peace.