To win the Pulitzer Prize for photojournalism is an honor for journalists. “It’s not a photography contest. It’s about telling some of the biggest stories of the year,” Pulitzer winning photojournalist William Snyder said. The award is given to a photo that captures a moment in time that touches people. The picture should make the viewer understand the story in a new light, with emotion. “Something about that still moment in time that does touch people,” Pulitzer winning photojournalist Carol Guzy said. The photo should bring emotion and awareness. The goal for photojournalists is to be invisible and be the eyes of the people who are not there.
In 1945, Joe Rosenthal’s photo of raising the flag on Iwo Jima won. The iconic photo holds the still moment of five American soldiers working together to raise the American flag. The photo gave hope to Americans. The photo fits the quote by John White: “It’s a front seat to history.” The picture is a perfect poster image for the war. The photo captures the emotion from the war and still shows hope for the audience.
Eddie Adams’ 1968 photo of the “Saigon Execution” won. The photo shows a South Vietnamese general firing his pistol at a Viet Cong officer/ prisoner. The photo shows another soldier in the back and the horror coming from the Viet Cong’s face. As this event was happening, Adams had to fire his camera as the general fired his pistol. The picture created controversy, but is a true view of war.
Jerry Gay captured a famous firefighter photograph from 1974. The photo shows four exhausted firefighters sitting on the side of a muddy hill, reflecting on what just happened. The photo captures the firefighters as soldiers with their helmets off. The picture captures the intense feelings as if the viewer is right there with the smoky haze, mud and emotion.
In 1982, John White captures a photograph of two children running in front of a Chicago housing project. The picture captures the innocence and fun of the happy children. As they play, their smiles make the shot a good-feeling picture for the viewer. The picture allows a light to shine through the element of children in these events.
Annie Wells captures a young girl being rescued from flooding waters in 1997. The photo shows the girl holding onto a branch as the muddy water around her swirls and a man rescuing her with a vibrant red lifejacket on. She looks into the shot for hope and survival. The picture shows the true moments of horror escaping fast to save the girl. For Wells to take this picture, she had to join the experience of the flood and follow the hope to help save the girl.
To capture these shots is a journey. Photojournalists truly go through an experience for a photo. They are the first responders to these events. “Everyone has a story. And we sing their song,” John White said. Photojournalists walk into these scenes that are often graphic. They go through the full experience of all the senses involved to capture these moments. The work is hard and they have to deal with the experience of the photo for the rest of their lives. Carol Guzy said, “ Someone once told me empathy was not imagining how you would feel in a particular situation, but actually feeling what the other person is feeling.”
This job is a calling because photojournalists go through the same experiences as captured in the pictures. Photojournalists have to hold onto that experience forever. Their profession is powerful. They can portray reality from their pictures, which can create change.