When Malcolm Browne responded to a call to be present in a “very important” event that was scheduled to happen one morning in June 1963 in Saigon, he felt that something big was certainly going to happen. He photographed one of the most shocking images of protest in history, which came to be known as “The Burning Monk.” WARNING: Contains graphic images.
In observance of the passing of American photographer and journalist Malcolm Browne in late August 2012, the world revisited his iconic and shocking photograph entitled The Burning Monk taken on June 11, 1963 in Saigon (present-day Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam. The gruesome scene immortalized on film, of Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc remaining calm and seated in the lotus position while being consumed by flames, horrified the world, shocked a president, and created an impact on the U.S. policy on the Vietnam War.
Browne was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting and the World Press Photo of the Year in 1963 for his Burning Monk photograph above.
In a 2011 interview with TIME, Browne said that he already had an idea about what was going to happen when he got the call to be present in a certain location in Saigon the next morning. “I had some hint that it would be something spectacular, because I knew these monks were not bluffing. They were perfectly serious about doing something pretty violent.”
Duc's act of self-immolation was part of the protest against the religious persecution of Buddhists by the Catholic-favoring government led by Ngo Dinh Diem.
On Browne’s photos, President John F. Kennedy said, “No news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one.”
All information and photos for this article were sourced from TIME Lightbox, NBC News Photo Blog, and Malcolm Browne and the Burning Monk on Lomography Magazine.
Our intention with the Influential Photographs series is not to glorify or demean the subject of the photo. Our intention with this column is to highlight the most influential analogue photographs of history. The photographs we feature are considered icons, for their composition, subject matter, or avant-garde artistic value.