The Pulitzer Photographs: Bringing Readers Into a Moment

     This photograph shifts to a different mood than in the decade before. In this frozen photograph of time, we see seconds before the end of a man’s life. Just as Eddie Adams said, it was a war. That is the reason this photo deserves its Pulitzer. It brings readers into that moment, shaking them to their core and showing them one of the ugliest sides of war and life. 

     This next photo is from the 1970s. “Chattanooga Parade” was published by Chattanooga News-Free Press and taken by Robin Hood in 1977.  “This guy was the real deal. He was an injured Vietnam veteran. As I began to photograph, a band came by and tears started coming out of his eyes. I learned later that he had been a star football player at a local high school. The moment I was taking the photograph, his high school band was the band that was marching by. And they were playing this patriotic song And it was just the combination of all that, it was more than he could bear.” 

     This photograph is truly deserving of the Pulitzer Prize not just because of the pure emotions and feeling that are in this photograph, but also the meaning behind it. A Vietnam vet coming home after serving his country and breaking down into tears of happiness, sadness, joy, relief possibly. The raw soul that this photograph has makes it truly worthy of its Pulitzer award. 

     This next photo is for the 1980s. “Colombia Mudslide” was taken by Michel du Cille and Carol Guzy in 1986.  “There was this huge mudslide in Columbia. More than 20,000 people were killed. After we realized how huge the event was, it was decided that Carol Guzy should also go. Boy, I’m glad that decision was made,” du Cille said.                               “Michael and I have a bond forever after that experience. You get to the edge of the site where you have to just start hiking and walking and you get to the point where it’s just mud and you’re walking over bodies and it’s pretty…pretty grueling,” Guzy said. 

     This photo is one taken of a deceased person’s arm reaching out from under piles of dried mud. This photograph shows you the last efforts from this dying human being before the individual drowned under piles of mud from this disaster. This photograph deserves its Pulitzer tenfold not just for freezing in time the last efforts of a dying human being but also the efforts and hardships of all the people in this disaster: the horror and sadness that come with a natural disaster like this. This picture also reflects the words Guzy said about having to walk over the mud and the bodies and how grueling all that truly is. 

     For our last decade, the 1990s, we have the Pulitzer photograph “Water Rescue.” This Pulitzer-winning photograph was taken by Annie Wells in 1997. 

     “That photograph is Don Lopez’ last effort to save a drowning girl. She’s going to drown or she’s going to be saved and that’s the picture you need.”

Woman trapped in the Columbian Mudslide.

     This photograph brings readers to the edge of other seats. Will she be saved or will she drown? That creates tension and uncertainty for readers as the story is being told. Just as Annie Wells said, that’s the kind of picture you need to earn a Pulitzer.

     All of these photographs have two things in common. One is that they all won a Pulitzer Prize. The other is that they all have a story to tell. The difference between a Pulitzer photograph and a non-Pulitzer photograph is whether that story truly shakes readers to their core. Whether it’s through inspiration and happiness or sadness and tragedy, that is what makes these photos Pulitzer worthy.