Last Updated July 13, 2018
Marines recover a body under fire, Operation Prairie, 1966 ©Larry Burrows | Courtesy Laurence Miller Gallery

Larry Burrows

British (Born 1926 - Died 1971 ) PREMIUM LISTING Featured Hot
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Born in London, Larry Burrows (born Henry Frank Leslie Burrows) was an English photojournalist best known for his pictures of the the Vietnam War. He died on 10 February 1971, when his helicopter was shot down over Laos. Also on board were fellow photojournalists Henri Huet, Kent Potter and Keisaburo Shimamoto, who died as well.

Burrows began working in London, in the city's press in 1942, first in the art department of the Daily Express; where he learned about photography, moving on to the darkrooms of the Keystone photography agency and LIFE. Burrows started to be called Larry to avoid confusion with another Henry working in the same office.

By 1961, Burrows had established himself as a staff photographer for LIFE and was covering the Vietnam War. Although he was a war correspondent for several international conflicts, including those in Lebanon, Iraq, Congo, and Cyprus, he is best known for his coverage of the war in Vietnam.

Burrows often shot colour film, while many of his counterparts used black and white. Colour gives his images a sense of immediacy and a heightened reality. Burrows's method of photojournalism was deliberate and meticulous, not dependent on chance and instinct. He frequently carefully planned his photographs, dictating their scenario, setting, and composition on the basis of his observations of the battlefront, and often spending several days on a single image. To achieve this he did his best to understand the conditions experienced by the troops he was photographing, living with the soldiers on the front line, and often not taking photographs for a number of days before felt that he had gained a level of acceptance.

His work is often cited as the most searing and the most consistently excellent photography from the war. Several of his pictures 'Reaching Out', for example, (featuring a wounded Marine trying to comfort a stricken comrade), and photo essays both encompassed and defined the long, polarizing conflict in Vietnam. One of his most famous collections, published first in LIFE magazine on 16 April 1965, entitled 'One Ride with Yankee Papa 13' about a mission on a helicopter.

Burrows was also the only photographer allowed to take the doors off a fighter-bomber so he could lean out to snap some of his most extraordinary images of the Vietnam War. When other photojournalists objected because they were denied the same favour, the Vietnamese army told them, "Mr. Burrows' request was granted not because he is a photographer but because he is an artist."

Burrows died with fellow photojournalists Henri Huet, Kent Potter and Keisaburo Shimamoto, when their helicopter was shot down over Laos. At the time of the helicopter crash, the photographers were covering Operation Lam Son 719, a massive armoured invasion of Laos by South Vietnamese forces against the Vietnam People's Army and the Pathet Lao.

In 2002, Burrows' posthumous book 'Vietnam' was awarded the Prix Nadar award.

American journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner David Halberstam, who was in Vietnam with Burrows, wrote in the book Requiem: By the Photographers Who Died in Vietnam and Indochina (1997): '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?'

Burrows featured in a BBC Omnibus documentary, 'Beautiful, Beautiful', first broadcast in 1969. In it he articulated the personal dilemma that faces many war photographers... 'So often I wonder is it my right to capitalize, I feel, so often on the grief of others. But then, I justify my own particular thoughts by feeling that if I contribute a little to the understanding of what others are going through – then there's a reason for doing it'.