Photo taken just before his death
Henry Frank Leslie Burrows
29 May 1926
|Died||10 February 1971 (aged 44)|
|Resting place||Newseum, Washington DC|
Burrows began his career in the art department of the Daily Express newspaper in 1942 in London. He learned photography and moved to work in the darkrooms of the Keystone photography agency and Life Magazine. It was here that Burrows started to be called Larry to avoid confusion with another Henry working in the same office. It was not unknown for him to redo a whole day of work in order to secure the best result.
He had an early success with his coverage of the demolition of the Heligoland U-Boat Pens in 1947. Working for the Associated Press, Burrows was a passenger in De Havilland Dragon Rapide. Officially they weren't supposed to go no closer to the island than 9 miles. However, Burrows persuaded the pilot to fly over at only 500 feet, knocking out the window perspex when it obscured his shot. For his efforts he was able to take eleven images and earned himself two pages in Life Magazine.
Burrows went on to become a photographer and covered the war in Vietnam from 1962 until his death in 1971. 'Reaching Out' became one his most famous images. It features US Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jeremiah Purdie, who while wounded, is seen reaching out to a wounded comrade.
Life.com editor Ben Cosgrove said of the photograph -
Larry Burrows made a photograph that, for generations, has served as the most indelible, searing illustration of the horrors inherent in that long, divisive war — and, by implication, in all wars.— Ben Cosgrove
One of his most famous images, published first in Life magazine on 16 April 1965, entitled "One Ride with Yankee Papa 13" about a mission on 31 March 1965.
Flying in a helicopter with the US Marines' Medium Helicopter Squadron 163, Burrows captured the death of Yankee Papa 3 co-pilot Lieutenant James Magel. At the landing zone Magel was assisted to Yankee Papa 13, once airborne door gunner Lance C. Farley gave first aid. It was to no avail and Burrows captured the Farley's distress at the loss of his comrade.
Of the photograph Burrows said -
It's no easy to photograph a man dying in the arms of a fellow countryman... Was I simply capatalizing on the other men's grief? I concluded that what I was doing would penetrate the hearts of those at home who are simply too indifferent.— Larry Burrows
He was described in The Times as an "equipment man" and quotes Burrows as saying, "When I take the lot with me there are twenty-six cases".
Burrows died with fellow photojournalists Henri Huet (Associated Press), Kent Potter (United Press International) and Keisaburo Shimamoto (freelancer with Newsweek), when their helicopter was shot down over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos as the group covered Operation Lam Son 719.
I do not think it is demeaning to any other photographer in the world for me to say that Larry Burrows was the single bravest and most dedicated war photographer I know of.— Ralph Graves
Of his work, Burrows himself said, "I cannot afford the luxury of thinking about what could happen to me".
In 1985, the Laurence Miller Gallery in New York published a portfolio of Burrows' prints, with the assistance of his son Russell Burrows. In 2002, Burrows' posthumous book Vietnam was awarded the Prix Nadar award.
Journalist David Halberstam paid tribute to Burrows in the 1997 book Requiem: By the Photographers Who Died in Vietnam and Indochina -
I must mention Larry Burrows in particular. To us younger men who had not yet earned reputations, he was a sainted figure. He was a truly beautiful man, modest, graceful, a star who never behaved like one. He was generous to all, a man who gave lessons to his colleagues not just on how to take photographs but, more important, on how to behave like a human being, how to be both colleague and mentor. Our experience of the star system in photography was, until we met him, not necessarily a happy one; all too often talent and ego seemed to come together in equal amounts. We were touched by Larry: How could someone so talented be so graceful?— David Halberstam, Requiem: By the Photographers Who Died in Vietnam and Indochina
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- 1001 photographs you must see before you die. London: Cassell Illustrated. ISBN 184403917X. OCLC 986847064.
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- "Vietnam Photo Exhibit on Display at Chrysler", Newport News Daily Press (September 29, 1985), Section I, p. 11.
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- Photographs at The Digital Journalist
- Popular Photography Magazine, Larry Burrows - A photographer's own story