Today, from daily The Guardian in Britain:
Malcolm Browne: man behind iconic burning monk photograph dies aged 81
Browne was a hero of photojournalism whose best work was beautifully judged and infused with a dignified power
Malcolm Browne’s 1963 photograph of a monk on fire in Saigon retains its power even after half a century. Browne has died aged 81, but his most famous picture will endure as a classic. Violent history has continued to create violent pictures ever since. But the dreadful act of self-immolation seemed a new kind of protest then. …
Yet still, this photograph has tragic power.
This is partly because it is in black and white, a restrained palette that worked well for news in the past because of its dignifying effect. The monochrome flames engulfing the monk are somehow more a matter for the imagination than they would be in gory colour. This slight holding back of horror allows a brief moment of thought and reflection to the observer of what is, by any standards, a shocking scene.
Yet the power of the picture ultimately comes from the stillness and calm of the monk, Thich Quang Duc. His composure as he is engulfed by agonising, petrol-fuelled fire is profoundly unsettling. The contrast between his suffering and his meditative pose is unearthly, and Browne’s photograph serves the self-sacrificing monk perfectly, for the photographer too seems to have worked carefully, rather than simply seizing a shot. The balanced, calm composition of the picture is what allows it to do justice to the scene.
USA: in 1965 a 31 year old Quaker named Norman Morrison set himself on fire in front of the river entrance to the Pentagon to protest the use of napalm in the Vietnam war. Morrison doused himself in kerosene and set himself on fire below Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s office: here.