August 24, 2014
As a photographer, you often displace a lot of your creativity, passion, and soul into the images that you capture. Rarely do you find yourself getting an artistic relief or should I say an extraordinary treat to say the least. Life consists of many stories, few make it beyond a decade, and only a miniscule fraction of that few will make it past a lifetime; but tonight I have a story that goes beyond even my wildest dreams.
A few days ago, my parents were invited to a dinner party, hosted by some of their mutual friends. They had mentioned that Nick Ut, the Pulitzer-Prize Winning photographer, was included on the guest list. As many of you know, Nick Ut is an icon in the photographic world, and a god in the world of Leica photography. He shot one of the most controversial photographs in the history of mankind, the ânapalm girlâ image of Phan Thi Kim Phuc in 1973; which evidently changed the political outlook of the Vietnam War.
Although, my last brief encounter with Nick Ut was a few years ago as we covered the Westminster City Council Inauguration together, I always regretted that I didn't get an autograph from him as a keepsake. But my luck was about to change and so the story was relayed back to me just moments ago.
My parents arrived at the dinner party late, and as they were being greeted by their friends, my father realized that it possibly was Nick Ut who had passed him briskly on the sidewalk just a few blinks ago. He quickly mentioned his fading encounter with the Pulitzer-Prize Winner to my mother, who jolted out onto the street in a desperate attempt to find the Leica master himself. She saw a woman, waiting curbside for her ride, and when she turned around it was Kieu Chinh, the most iconic Vietnamese actress of all time. In conversation, my mother discovered that Ms. Kieu Chinh's date for the evening was Mr. Nick Ut and she was patiently waiting for him to drive her home. My mother, being the witty woman that she is, told Kieu Chinh that her son was a huge Nick Ut fan! Kieu Chinh immediately assured my mother that she must meet Nick and share the enthusiasm face to face. My mother also remembered that I had asked her to bring along a few items that Nick Ut might possibly autograph, one being the baseplate of my beloved Leica M2 camera and a book given to me by Lizzy many years ago that included all of the Pulitzer-Prize Winning photographs to date. After rushing back to the car to retrieve these items, she found Nick Ut and Kieu Chinh waiting patiently for her by their vehicle. They greeted her with warm smiles and a few friendly stories. Nick Ut took the time out to sign both items without hesitation and that just says a lot about the man. He also was nice enough to capture a few shots of my mom and Kieu Chinh and with himself. Can you believe it!?!? Nick Ut took a photograph of my mother!
My mother also told me that, as she handed him the baseplate, he immediately recognized that it had come from a Leica M2 camera. He told her that he still shoots with his M2 and he was wondering who was the owner of this camera? In which my mom proudly said it belonged to her son, Tuananh. Nick Ut quickly replied that he recognized my name! I couldn't believe what I was hearing; Nick Ut "recognized my name". I am just lost for words.
So here I am, seated next to an autographed image of the "napalm girl" and the words "Nick Ut" signed across my Leica M2, but above all of these extraordinary events I realized that it is nowhere nearly as cool as my mother right now!! Thanks mom for such an amazing story, you definitely are the best of the best!!