When Images Take on Lives of Their Own (Documentary)

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This documentary by Hans Pool and Maaik Krijgsman about four World Press Photo contest winners defines icon to mean a still image so searing that it supplants memories of the event it was supposed to record.

The selected pictures pass the test: a South Vietnamese brigadier general executing a Vietcong guerrilla in 1968; a 1973 image of President Salvador Allende of Chile, soon to be assassinated; the 1989 snapshot of a Chinese protestor blocking a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square; and a 1991 Gulf War photograph of a United States soldier in a helicopter, weeping near the body of his best friend.

The film offers vivid thumbnails of the stories behind the pictures. It notes, for example, that Eddie Adams, the Associated Press photographer whose execution image became an antiwar touchstone, supported intervention in Vietnam and regretted that his photograph made the killer — his friend Nguyen Ngoc Loan, then serving as the national police chief of South Vietnam — seem coldblooded. Mr. Adams believed he was a decent man who snapped under pressure.

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