June 15, 2007 — -- What do Paris Hilton and a Vietnam War victim have in common? Absolutely nothing except a brilliant photographer.
On June 8, 1972, Nick Ut a photojournalist for The Associated Press, captured a moment that strengthened the anti-Vietnam War movement and left an indelible mark on the American conscience.
Few people could forget the photograph of 9-year-old Kim Phuc running naked down a dirt road near Trang Beng, Vietnam, after a napalm attack. Ut's iconic photo documented the horror of the war and was reproduced all around the world.
On June 8, exactly 35 years after taking the photo of that little girl, Ut captured yet another unforgettable moment in history -- Paris Hilton crying in the back seat of a Los Angeles County Sheriff's cruiser.
"The picture looked like the napalm girl," Ut notes, "the picture of her -- you can see she is screaming."
The heiress, known for party girl antics that are considered paparazzi gold, was caught in a more serious predicament than usual during his photo. She was on a return trip to jail for violating probation in a reckless driving case. Once again, one of Ut's photos -- coincidentally of a young woman in distress -- was distributed worldwide.
Though Ut is best known for his photos during the Vietnam War, his latest contribution to the photojournalist archives illustrates his long-time fascination with the trials and tribulations of tinseltown.
"I love Hollywood," Ut admits.
As an AP photographer based in Los Angeles, he has been taking photos of the rich, famous and infamous such as Bette Davis, Michael Jackson and Winona Ryder, since 1975.
The difference between his two most widely sought out photos? The one taken 35 years ago earned Ut a Pulitzer Prize for photography and a place in history as a photojournalist who advanced the argument to end the Vietnam War.
Ut's latest installment will probably never garner a Pulitzer nor will it find its way into the national conversation about the Iraq War; however, like the photo of Phuc, it does reflect the times in which we find ourselves.