It is one of the most harrowing & recognizable images in the history of photography; a Viet Cong soldier, standing in the street with his hands bound behind his back, winces as the bullet fired from his executioner’s gun hits his left temple. The brutal, almost fuzzy simplicity of the black & white image would catapult Eddie Adams (1933-2004), a combat photographer, to international fame and award him the Pulitzer Prize in 1969. This image, along with five others taken during his long and celebrated career that spanned not only thirteen wars but countless encounters with celebrities, cultural figures, and exotic landscapes, will be offered at auction on August 24, 25 and 26, 2018 at Great Gatsby’s Auction Gallery. The works come from the private collection of Susan Sinclair, the daughter of the late photographer.
Although Adams admitted to having a tricky relationship with his most famous photo and the impact it had on the surviving subject’s life, violence was not the only topic he managed to capture. Human suffering, polished politicians, candid backstage moments, or the simple relationship between man and beast all passed in front of Adams’ expert lens offering a unique glimpse into otherwise private moments. In addition to the grittiness of a street execution, Adams’ oeuvre covered the enormity of John F. Kennedy’s Washington D.C funeral in 1963, the silent agony of a small Haitian child, a grid-like apartment building in New York City and its residents, legendary jazz musician Louis Armstrong in his Las Vegas dressing room, and a shepherd in Bethlehem walking alongside his lamb.
These images, from the domestic to the sober, reflect the many-sided nature of a legendary photographer’s eye, able to render complex moments into stark simplicity and to share a range of emotions with his countless viewers. Highly decorated during his fifty year career, Adams, who died in New York City in 2004, has been quoted as saying “If it makes you laugh, if it makes you cry, if it rips out your heart, that’s a good picture.” With these six images on offer, we believe the viewer will experience that desired range of emotion, while simultaneously owning a piece of photographic history.