Speak Truth to Power: The Power of Photography

April 30, 2023

Today is the 48th anniversary of The Fall of Saigon.

And, today, I would like to acknowledge the Pulitzer Prize winning photographer, Eddie Adams, whose photo series, “The Boat of No Smiles”, changed the course of history for Vietnamese refugees.


In the early days of the Vietnamese Boat People exodus (about 18 months after Communist take-over of Vietnam), no one – no country – was allowing Vietnamese refugees to land.

Boats were being pushed back out to sea, to certain miserable death.

The story was impossible to cover.

Eddie Adams found a way: he paid his way onto fishing vessels that then dropped him off onto a boat loaded with refuge-seekers.

Of his experience, Eddie says:

“I cannot describe the despair. There were dramatic pictures… but something even worse was there. Whenever you go to refugee camps in a war zone where terrible things have happened… you still find children who gather before the camera with a smile. This was the first time in my life that no child smiled. I called the pictures, 'The Boat of No Smiles'."

His photos, taken on Thanksgiving 1976, along with journalism from Peter Arnett, made the news headlines.

Two days later, US Congress asked the Associated Press to present their photos before Congress.

President Carter said “Let them come to America”.

From Eddie Adam’s collection, The Boat of No Smiles.


To get more context for Eddie Adams, and this particular photo series within the context of his 50+ year photography career, read his fascinating interview with Nan Richardson - as featured in PBS documentary, Speak Truth to Power.

Read the interview


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