Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pulitzer Prize for Photography: 1954

Continuing the list of the winners of 
  • the Pulitzer Prize for Photography, from inception in 1942; and 
  • the World Press Photograph of the Year, from inception in 1955: 

Year:  1954 

Award:  Pulitzer Prize for Photography 

Photographer:  Virginia Shau, amateur photographer 

Photograph:  Rescue at Redding California 


Virginia Schau’s 1953 photograph of the rescue of two truck drivers won her the Pulitzer in 1954, the first time that a woman won the award and the second time for an amateur. 

Journalism, photography and the breaking of news are today vastly different from the world of 1953. The growth of the internet, the ability to instantaneously post photographs and images on various sites and in various formats including Twitter, Facebook, personal blogs and You Tube, has led to the rise of what is sometimes called Citizen Journalism. No longer is the dissemination of news left to traditional journalists; the public themselves can now publish updates of breaking news. 

Virginia and her husband Walter were on a fishing trip in California when, travelling behind a large truck, they saw it plunge off a bridge at Redding. The truck had crashed through the railing after the steering mechanism had snapped. Running to the edge, they saw the prime mover of the semitrailer dangling over the edge, the driver and co-driver still inside. Walter and Virginia yelled for a rope, the driver behind their car fortunately had a long marine rope. Waler lowered it to the cabin and one of the men was pulled onto the bridge. As the second man was pulled up the prime mover burst into flames and crashed onto the rocks below. 

Here's the photograph again with the driver on the rope highlighted:

During the rescue, Virginia remembered that the Sacramento Bee awarded a $10 prize for the best news photograph of the week. Going back to her car, she grabbed her camera from among the fishing gear, a simple Brownie Box camera that was the iPod of its day. 

Brownie Box camera, 1953 model

She had two shots left on a roll of film that was one year past its use by date. Running to a vantage point across from the bridge, Virginia Schau took two shots of the rescue. 

Virginia won the $10 from the Sacramento Bee and the Pulitzer the following year. Virginia Schau’s photograph is one of the earliest instances of citizen journalism. Having no journalistic experience and no specialised photographic equipment, she happened to be in the right spot at the right time. 

Which leads me to another citizen journalist photograph: 

This photograph was taken by me from my office window on 13 December this year on my iphone after a chap was tasered by the cops for kicking the crap out of the paddy wagon and resisting arrest. That’s him on the ground behind the pole. He had obviously not heard of the first rule of dealing with the police: “When interviewed or arrested, keep still, keep your mouth shut and don’t piss the police off.” 

I will let you know when I hear about my Pulitzer for 2013. 

What is interesting about the pic is the number of cops and police cars that attended. There were about half a dozen cars and about 20 police officers in all that suddenly appeared out of the proverbial nowhere. 

It reminds me of an old story: 

George Phillips of Meridian, Mississippi was going up to bed when his wife told him that he'd left the light on in the garden shed, which she could see from the bedroom window. 

George opened the back door to go turn off the light, but saw that there were people in the shed stealing things.

He phoned the police, who asked "Is someone in your house?" and he said "No". Then they said that all patrols were busy, and that he should simply lock his door and an officer would be along when available. 

George said, "Okay," hung up, counted to 30, and phoned the police again. 

"Hello, I just called you a few seconds ago because there were people in my shed. Well, you don't have to worry about them now cause I've just shot them all." Then he hung up. 

Within five minutes three police cars, an Armed Response unit, and an ambulance showed up at the Phillips residence and caught the burglars red-handed. 

One of the policemen said to George: "I thought you said that you'd shot them!" 

George said, "I thought you said there was nobody available!" has looked at whether the story is true or whether it is an urban legend. They conclude that the original 2001 story is not a true account but that there have been later examples of people giving stories to the police of shootings and hostage situations when frustrated at (what they perceived to be) a delayed response time. Those persons were charged with filing false reports, deservedly so in that police officers and detectives were called off matters they were handling to respond to what they were told were emergency situations. Furthermore, such reports put the police and the person reporting the false report at risk. Read it at: 

They should have referred to Rule #1, above.


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