As photographers, we hold immense power. We can bring images of anything, from anywhere, to the whole world. We can deliver truths to the forefront and help bring change. Sometimes, a powerful image drives home things that just wouldn’t sink into people’s minds otherwise, and with the viral nature of social media, images can reach the multitudes.
For photojournalists, being awarded a Pulitzer prize for your work is the ultimate recognition of an impactful image. The two 2018 winners have just been released, and both have intense backstories.
The winning photo in the Breaking News Photography category was taken by Ryan Kelly, then-photographer for The Daily Progress of Charlottesville, VA on his last day in that role. He was at the now infamous “Unite The Right” rally in August of 2017, staged to protest the removal of civil war memorabilia. Some marchers attended with an overtly racist agenda, which drew a crowd of counter-protesters. The tragic culmination of the event occurred when a man linked to white supremacist groups attacked a crowd of counter-protesters with his vehicle, killing one and injuring 19.
Kelly was right there when it happened, and attributing his reflexes to many years as a photojournalist, grabbed his camera and captured the brutal event. He still lives with the trauma from this event and now works as a social media manager for a brewery, citing “state of the industry, the stress and the schedule” for his career change, though he does still work as a photographer on a freelance basis.
The Feature Photography category was won by the entire photo staff at Reuters for important reporting on the reality for Rohingya refugees as they escaped Myanmar. The Rohingya people face a humanitarian crisis in Myanmar as they are not accepted as citizens despite generations of physical residency.
They are seen by many who occupy the same area as subhuman and are treated as such. The current situation for the Rohingya has been described by UN human-rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” and countless Rohingya have sought refuge in Bangladesh, but the journey is perilous.
.@reuterspictures was awarded a Pulitzer for the photographs that exposed the world to the violence Rohingya refugees faced while fleeing Myanmar. See the photos here: https://t.co/zDAsss9wWk pic.twitter.com/dNN90R5Rmz
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) April 17, 2018
There is danger involved for those who would bring this news to the world as well. Two Reuters reporters are currently incarcerated in Myanmar, accused of violating the Official Secrets Act.
You can view the Reuters staff’s entire set of winning images here.