Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pulitzer and World Press Photographs of the Year: 1955

Continuing the list of the Pulitzer Photo of the Year from inception in 1942 and the World Press Photo of the Year from inception in 1955.

Year:     1955 

Award:     Pulitzer Prize for Photography 

Photographer:     John L Gaunt Jnr of the Los Angeles Times 

Photograph:     “Tragedy by the Sea” 


On the morning of April 2, 1954, Los Angeles Times photographer John Gaunt was lounging in the front yard of his beachfront home in Hermosa Beach when he heard a neighbour shout, “Something’s happening on the beach!” Gaunt grabbed his Rolliflex camera and ran toward the shoreline. 

When he arrived, he saw a young couple standing near the water clutching each other. Their 19-month-old son who had been playing in their yard had wandered down to the beach and into the surf. He was swept away by the fierce tide and drowned. Gaunt took four quick photos of the grieving couple. 

One of them appeared on the front page of The Times the next morning and won him a Pulitzer and an Associated Press Award. 

Critical acclaim and harsh criticism surrounded Gaunt immediately. The Pulitzer committee called the photograph, titled “Tragedy by the Sea,” “poignant and profoundly moving.” However, many wondered whether it was ethical to take these photos. Although Gaunt did not know the couple personally, he knew people who did, and Gaunt himself had a 3-year-old daughter at home at that time. 

When Gaunt died in 2007 aged 83, his newspaper obituary included a recollection by his daughter that, despite the acclaim, "the image was hard for him to bear at first." 

Year:     1955 
Award:     World Press Photograph of the Year 

Photographer:     Mogens van Haven 

Photograph:     Motorcyclist crashes during a competition in Denmark 


I think this is a bit of a ho hum photograph, nothing special, even for 1955.  It's nowhere near as good as my pic of the guy who was tasered, for which I expect to hear from the Pulitzer people any day now.  

World Press Photo of the Year 1955, the first year in which such award was commenced, was Mogens von Haven of Denmark. His photograph, taken at Volk Mølle racecourse, Randers, Denmark on 28 August 1955 shows a competitor tumbling off his motorcycle during a motorcross championship. Wow.  Von Haven used to cover all the Danish motorcycle and car races of his day. He was ideally situated for the shot because back then photographers could choose their own positions and move around freely. This is very different in the sporting world of today where movement is severely restricted.

That's the disadvantage of a countdown, you have to see them all, even the crap ones.


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