Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pulitzer and World Press Photographic Awards: 1957

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


Byter Doug sent me an email last week in response to the posting of the 1956 Pulitzer photographic award.  That photo was of a bomber that landed in a suburban street after the propellers ceased functioning, resulting in the deaths of the pilots but no others. Doug wrote: 
Hi Otto,  
Very interesting pictures, as always. I really enjoy this series. 
I always admire those two bomber pilots. They would deliberately have sacrificed their lives in order to avoid civilian casualties. Given the year, those pilots would presumably have flown numerous missions over Germany or Japan, yet willingly died in the US.  
Given the space available (along with power lines and wider streets having more traffic), it was a bloody good landing. They would have died happy with their efforts.  
As a writer said about the firemen in the World Trade Center buildings, they did not lose their lives, they gave their lives.  
Thanks for the input, Doug.

This week’s photos, from the year 1957, are not only moments frozen forever in time, they are also moments of history and, in the second photograph, of  shame. . . 

Year: 1957 

Award: Pulitzer Prize for Photography 

Photographer: Harry A Trask of Boston Traveler 


(Official description)  A dramatic and outstanding photographic sequence of the sinking of the liner SS Andrea Doria, the pictures being taken from an airplane flying at a height of 75 feet only nine minutes before the ship plunged to the bottom. (The second picture in the sequence is cited as the key photograph.) 


The SS Andrea Doria was an ocean liner in the Italian fleet, which was home ported in Genoa. The ship is most famous for its sinking in 1956. On July 25, 1956 the cruiser was approaching the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts bound for New York City when it collided with the eastward-bound MS Stockholm of the Swedish American Line. The accident would become one of history's most infamous maritime disasters. The shortage of lifeboats might have resulted in significant loss of life but improvements in communications and rapid responses by other ships averted a disaster similar in scale to the Titanic

In all, 1660 passengers and crew were rescued and survived, while 46 people died as a consequence of the collision. The evacuated luxury liner capsized and sank the following morning. In 1957, Harry A. Trask won the Pulitzer Prize for his dramatic photographic sequence of the sinking of the SS Andrea Doria. The pictures were taken from an airplane flying at a height of 75 feet, nine minutes before the ship sank. 

The cause of the collision with the Stockholm and the loss of the Andrea Doria generated much interest in the media and many lawsuits. Largely because of an out-of-court settlement agreement between the two shipping companies during hearings immediately after the disaster, no determination of the cause(s) was ever formally published. Although greater blame appeared initially to fall on the Italian liner, more recent discoveries have indicated that a misreading of radar on the Swedish ship may have initiated the collision course, leading to errors on both ships. 

The Andrea Doria was the last major transatlantic passenger vessel to sink before aircraft became the preferred method of travel. 

By the way moment:

After the ships had separated, as the Stockholm crew members were beginning to survey the damage, on the deck of the Stockholm aft of the wrecked bow they discovered 14-year-old Linda Morgan with a major arm injury requiring surgery. It was soon determined that she had been an Andrea Doria passenger, had miraculously survived the impact, and had been somehow propelled far onto the Stockholm's deck. Her half sister Joan Cianfarra, who had been sleeping in Cabin 52 with her on the Andrea Doria, had perished, as had her stepfather. He had been in an adjacent cabin with Linda's mother, who was seriously injured but survived and had to be extricated. 

Photographer Harry Trask holds one of the photographs in the 
Pulitzer winning sequence.

Year: 1957 

Award: World Press Photograph of the Year 

Photographer: Douglas Martin 


Dorothy Counts mocked by whites on her first day of school at a newly desegregated school. 


Dorothy Counts, one of the first black students to enter the newly desegregated Harry Harding High School is mocked by whites on her first day of school. People threw rocks and screamed at her "Go back where you came from." Walking beside her is Dr. Edwin Tompkins, a friend of the family and a professor at the black college Johnson C. Smith University.

After a string of abuses, Dorothy's family withdrew her from the school after only four days.

Across the United States that week children had been enrolling for the new school year. In the south tension was particularly high for districts trying to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling that states should integrate their schools "with deliberate speed". 

In the 1954 decision of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka the US Supreme Court declared that state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students were unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v Ferguson decision of 1896 which allowed state-sponsored segregation. The Court’s unanimous (9–0) decision stated that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." As a result racial segregation was ruled a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Unites States Constitution. This ruling paved the way for integration and the civil rights movement. 

In 1957, forty black students applied for transfers at a white school. At 15 years of age, on September 1957, Dorothy Counts was one of the four black students enrolled at various all-white schools in the district. She was at Harry Harding High School, Charlotte, North Carolina. Three students were enrolled at other schools, including Central High School.

The harassment shown in the above photograph started when the wife of John Z. Warlick, the leader of the White Citizens Council, urged the boys to "keep her out" and at the same time, implored the girls to spit on her, saying, "spit on her, girls, spit on her." 

Dorothy walked by without reacting, but told the press that many people threw rocks at her, most of which landed in front of her feet, and that many spat on her back. More abuse followed that day. She had trash thrown on her plate while eating her dinner and the teachers ignored her. The following day, she was befriended by two white girls who soon drew back when they were harassed by classmates. Her family received threatening phone calls and after four days of extensive harassment, which included a smashed car and having her locker ransacked, her father decided to take his daughter out of the school. Her family had been told by the school administrators and school officials that they could not guarantee her safety.

At a press conference, he said: 
It is with compassion for our native land and love for our daughter Dorothy that we withdraw her as a student at Harding High School. As long as we felt she could be protected from bodily injury and insults within the school’s walls and upon the school premises, we were willing to grant her desire to study at Harding. 
The family moved to Pennsylvania, where Dorothy Counts attended an integrated school in Philadelphia. 

The students had done what had been asked of them and had kept her out.

Some other pics:


Since then: 
  • Dorothy Counts finished high school in Philadelphia and came back to Charlotte where she obtained a degree from Johnson C Smith University. She has remained in Charlotte ever since, except for a couple of early years in NY. 
  • She has worked primarily with children, including heading resources for low-income children and being an advocate for better child care. "What happened on that day really set me on a path. I've always wanted to work to make sure that bad things don't happen to other children." 
  • She is divorced and raised two adopted children.
  • In 2010 Harry Harding High School, the school that she had left after 4 days of abuse, named a new building after her.


  1. While Googling some American photographers, I decided to take a break from the "big names" and search my grandfather (who never owned or operated a computer) to see what might pop up, and found myself here on your blog, reading the story that has become such an integral part of my family's history - the sinking of the Andrea Doria (and of course, the Pulitzer Prize). My grandfather was a very quiet, humble man. You'd never know if you met him on the street that he had won a Pulitzer Prize. You'd probably never even know he was a photographer, since he was more likely carrying around a newspaper or a fishing rod. He worked for the Herald Traveler before eventually moving into teaching photography, and in his later years, he helped my dad run our family fishing store. He loved fishing, whistling, and enjoyed a cup of coffee while doing the daily crossword puzzle in the morning paper. He had a very quiet, but quick sense of humor, and was the most patient man I ever met.

    He passed away in 2002, a month before I left for college. He never knew what Facebook was, or a blog, and he never had a cell phone. He never photographed with a digital camera, and vacation for him and my grandmother was usually a long weekend biking down on Cape Cod. While this photograph was certainly an important part of his life (and my sister, the first grand-daughter born, was named Andrea Doria), it was not what defined him. Yet, I am still moved by how the photographs he took remain relevant and impactful, even in our modern, digital age.

    Thanks for this post. It made my morning. :)

    Shannon (Trask) Sorensen

  2. Thanks Shannon, the item was only just posted, a few days ago. In your grandfather's day the focus (no pun intended)was on the photographer, not the darkroom. Today the emphasis is on the photoshopping, enhancing etc after the photo is taken. Hats off to your grandfather.


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