South Vietnam, 11 June 1963 | Malcolm Browne
The self-immolation of Thich Quang Duc in Saigon.
Malcolm Browne won World Press Photo of the Year 1963 and a Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for this photograph of a Buddhist monk's self-immolation in Saigon, South Vietnam, on 11 June 1963.
Thich Quang Duc's incomparable protest at religious suppression broke US support for Ngo Dinh Diem's ruthless authoritarianism. The Diem government's banning of non-state flags was directed against Buddhists, who were labelled as communists for criticising the oppressive regime.
President John F Kennedy is reported to have exclaimed "Jesus Christ!" on seeing the photo, and later remarked: "No news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one." A harrowing video underlines the inhuman calm of the monk's death.
Present with Browne at the scene was David Halberstam, now recently deceased, then a young journalist for the New York Times, who became joint winner of the Pulitzer Prize with Browne. In his acclaimed account of the Vietnam disaster, he wrote:
Flames were coming from a human being; his body was slowly withering and shrivelling up, his head blackening and charring. In the air was the smell of burning human flesh; human beings burn surprisingly quickly. Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think . . . As he burned he never moved a muscle, never uttered a sound, his outward composure in sharp contrast to the wailing people around him.
Browne's photograph has become a pop-cultural icon -- in 1992, it was used as the cover artwork for Rage Against the Machine's anti-establishment debut album, Killing in the Name.
Previous: South Vietnam, 9 June 1972 | Nick Ut
This image features in the 50 Greatest Political Photographs (part one) special double issue of the NS. You can order your copy here.
The judges were Jason Cowley, Jonathan Dimbleby, Stuart Franklin, Rebecca McClelland and Jon Snow.
Tags: Political Photographs