Photographer Larry Burrows was born in London in 1926. At age 16, he began working in the lab of LIFE magazine’s London bureau. Poor eyesight kept him from a hoped-for position as an Army or Navy photographer in World War II. Instead he had to content himself with printing thousands of photos taken by LIFE‘s great photographers of that war.
But he did become a photographer. His images from the 1950’s, on assignment for LIFE, were widely published. His memorable image of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, at an RAF station in 1954, with his back to the camera, typified Burrows’ ability to capture layers of nuance and meaning through a person’s body language. He also took many winsome portraits – Brigitte Bardot, C.P. Snow, T.S. Eliot and Louis Armstrong.
When the opportunity to cover the Vietnam War arose, Burrows was ready. He went there in 1962, and as David Halberstam writes in his introduction to the book Larry Burrows Vietnam, “From the start, the best photos from Vietnam were his. He had a feel for the war and the people fighting it … and he understood that … this was the ultimate assignment, demanding the ultimate risk.” Many Burrows images were incorporated into Ken Burns’ recent documentary Vietnam (2017).
Burrows’ best-known series is One Ride with Yankee Papa 13, which LIFE published across 14 pages in 1965. From the opening spread, where a young, confident soldier named James Farley is introduced before a mission to airlift an infantry battalion, to its bloody sequence on the ensuing firefight and failed rescue, to Farley’s emotional return to base, the essay captures the universal humanity of man embroiled in the inhumanity of war. Burrows covered the war until 1971, when the helicopter in which he was riding to photograph the invasion of Laos was shot down, killing all aboard.
In New York, an exhibition titled Larry Burrows revisited pays him tribute at the moment, featuring over forty photographs exemplifying his career as both one of the great humanist photographers of the 20th Century, as well as a pioneer in the use of color. It includes both rare black and white and early color prints from the Burrows’ family collection, as well as vintage prints from LIFE‘s archive.
Larry Burrows Revisited
May 10 – June 29, 2018
Laurence Miller Gallery
521 W 26th St
New York, NY 10001