Reflections on Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographs

     “A Glimpse of Life: The Pulitzer Photographs” is a short film that features some of the most powerful images photojournalists have taken across many decades. Each photograph is emotional and captures an important moment in history. As photographer Eddie Adams said, “If it makes you laugh, if it makes you cry, if it rips out your heart, it’s a good picture.” This is something that all of the Pulitzer Prize photos have in common.


Babe Ruth Farewell, 1949

This photograph, by Nathaniel Fein, pictures famous baseball player Babe Ruth standing before a full stadium. The photograph captured Ruth from behind. It shows the player’s worn jersey with the famous number three printed on it. Ruth is slightly hunched over with sickness and age. The crowd as well as his teammates are giving him a standing ovation on his day of retirement. This is an example of excellent photojournalism because it captures an important moment in history from a unique angle. In this photograph Babe Ruth is not as young and healthy as he once was. But the image shows that he will be remembered and loved by many for years to come. 


Seattle Firefighters, 1975

This photograph, by Jerry Gay, pictures four exhausted firefighters sitting on the ground amid rubble and smoke. All of the men are looking in different directions, clearly deep in thought. They are holding their helmets in their hands. Gay said, “Because they had their helmets off, the picture looked like soldiers.” This aspect of the photograph illustrates the life-threatening and heroic nature of fighting fires. This is an example of excellent photojournalism because it tells a story, hinting at the events the firefighters had witnessed just before the photo was taken. It evokes both fear and pride from the audience, among other emotions.


Colombia Mudslide, 1986

In this photo series, photographer Carol Guzy captured a deadly mudslide and the people affected by it. One photograph, is of a woman trapped in mud and water. Only her face shows above the surface. Two people are crouched beside her, trying to pull her out. This is an excellent example of photojournalism because it captures a devastating historical moment and evokes so much emotion from the audience. The photographer, having witnessed the tragedy, said, “Just to be able to deal with this, I would seek out those moments of humanity and courage.” This photograph is a fine example of that. The woman pictured had been trapped for three days. The Pulitzer Prize winning photo is a tribute to her unbelievable resilience.

Woman trapped in the Columbian Mudslide.


Rwandan Refugees, 1998

In this photo series, Martha Rial captured Rwandan refugees, focusing primarily on the faces of children. In one image, the photographer captured a small, malnourished boy eating out of a bowl. He is sitting on the ground, surrounded by other refugees. Despite his circumstances, he has a smile on his face. Rial said, “I really felt like I was viewing life in its most fragile form.” This image perfectly captures that fragility. But it also captures the resilience within the child. It evokes emotions of both sadness and happiness. This is why it won the Pulitzer prize and why it is an excellent example of photojournalism.


Kosovo, 2000

This Pulitzer Prize winning photo, by Carol Guzy, pictures a baby being lifted over a barbed wire fence. There is a woman on the other side of the fence reaching for the child as well as other witnesses with concerned expressions nearby. The sky is blue and the background is mountainous. This photo is an example of excellent photojournalism because it illustrates a moment in history that will always be relevant. In the photo, refugees are seeking safety for themselves and their children. The photograph shows the danger and sacrifice that people will suffer to save their loved ones. 

     The photos featured in “A Glimpse of Life: The Pulitzer Prize Photos” each tell a unique story. They all evoke a number of emotions from the audience, and likely even more emotions from the photographer. Many of these photos are of traumatic, emotional and otherwise important historical events. The photographers often sacrificed their own comfort, health and happiness to capture these moments. This is, in part, what makes each photo so powerful and what makes photojournalism such an important job.