Have you ever heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”? That is one simple way to describe the essence of a Pulitzer Prize photograph. The Pulitzer Prize is regarded as the most prestigious award for journalism. A Pulitzer photograph is much more than just a photograph. It’s an image with a voice. An image with emotion. An image of truth. Pulitzer photographs go beyond a standard visual, telling a compelling story. They are rare moments captured in time. Moments of great tragedy and despair. Moments of joy and victory. Moments that will continue to live on through the art of photography.
The film “A Glimpse of Life: The Pulitzer Photographs” takes a look into the life of several photojournalists. It lets viewers hear from the photojournalists themselves and shows a wide selection of photographs that have won a Pulitzer Prize. One photograph shown was the most recognizable and substantial image of World War II. It was captured by journalist Joe Rosenthal. It’s a small group of U.S. Marines raising an American flag atop a mountain at Iwo Jima in 1945. This photograph resonates a message of hope during battle. “I think the most powerful weapon that we have in the world is a still photograph,” Pulitzer winning photojournalist Eddie Adams said.
One of the haunting images shown in the film is a Saigon execution in 1969. A man with a plaid shirt is standing with his hands behind his back. He appears disheveled and somewhat beaten. His eyes are squinted and his mouth is partially opened. There are buildings in the background and soldiers to the left. One soldier is pointing a pistol at the man’s head. “All of a sudden, to my left, somebody came out of nowhere. And I see him go for his pistol. And as soon as he raises his pistol, as soon as he brought it up, I took the picture,” Eddie Adams said. This photo was taken right before the man’s death. The fear and defeat are shown in his face. The horror of knowing it was his last breath.
Another horrifying image captured was from a Boston fire in 1976, taken by Stanley Forman. People are falling from the top of a brick building. The fire escape had collapsed. A woman and child are plummeting helplessly in the air with their arms and legs extended from their bodies. “It was a routine rescue. And then all of a sudden, everything went to garbage…. I’m taking pictures and then all of a sudden you hear this crunch and people just started falling,” Stanley Forman said.
Photojournalist Stan Grossfeld is featured in the film for his photographs on war and famine. One of his photos is of an Ethiopian woman sitting with a child in 1985. The woman has her hands gently placed on the child’s head in comfort. The child is naked, thin and malnourished. “I hope no kid going to this museum ever has to see what I saw. I don’t want to even talk about it. My Pulitzers were won on war and famine,” Stan Grossfeld said. The emotion is apparent in Grossfeld’s voice and face. It is evident that photographing such images is not easy.
Not all the photographs in the film had somber images. There were joyful moments captured as well. For instance, a photo taken in Haiti by Carol Guzy in 1995. The photograph is a close-up of a youthful person, taken from only the neck up. The person is looking up with their head tilted back. Their eyes are somewhat squinted in happiness with a gleaming smile across their face. A moment of pure pleasure and delight. A moment that can warm anyone’s heart. “There’s something about the still moment, that moment in time that does touch people,” Carol Guzy said.
Photojournalism is powerful. It speaks out to the world and stirs an array of emotions. It’s more than just a profession for the journalists. It’s a mission. It’s a passion. It’s a way of life. It takes a strong and compassionate human being to take such heart-wrenching photos. It takes determination. It takes instinct. It takes purpose. “Everyone has a story. And we sing their song. If we don’t do it—if the journalist doesn’t do it—who’s going to do it?” Pulitzer winning photojournalist John White said. Photojournalism keeps those stories alive. A voice that will never be silenced.