Sunday, April 6, 2014

Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography: 1970

Between 1942 and 1967 a Pulitzer Prize for Photography was awarded for photojournalism, that is, for photographs telling a news story.

In 1968 that award was replaced by awards in two new categories: 

· the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography (photography in the nature of breaking news);and 

· the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography (human interest and matters associated with new items). 

From1955 World Press Photo has awarded prizes for the best photographs in 10 categories, with an overall award for the image that "... is not only the photojournalistic encapsulation of the year, but represents an issue, situation or event of great journalistic importance, and does so in a way that demonstrates an outstanding level of visual perception and creativity".

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Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography
Dallas Kinney
Portfolio of Florida migrant workers

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Photojournalist Dallas Kinney (pictured above) may look like he is wearing one of those comic spectacle frame-eyebrows-moustache things that you buy in joke shops but there is actually a poignant background to his 1970 Pulitzer win for his sad portfolio on Florida migrant workers, Migration to Misery. Kinney spent two and a half months with the farm workers in 1969.

His story raises personal issues as well as questioning the role of photojournalists, their professional detachment from what is being photographed and the efficacy and effectiveness of photojournalism generally.

Kinney said the man with the basket of snap beans, above, was the signature photograph for his series.

The following article by Carlos Frias is from:

Dallas Kinney repeats the phrase as a mantra, hoping if you hear it enough times, you will realise what his career - no, his life - has been about: Do you understand?
When he looked at the world through the lens of a camera, he wanted others to understand the story his pictures told. Whenever they missed the point, he felt it invalidated his work.
And maybe that pressure is why he lasted just five short years as a photojournalist. When Dallas Kinney won the Pulitzer Prize at The Palm Beach Post on May 4, 1970 for exposing the trials of African-American migrant farmers in the Glades, it was the beginning of the end of his career.
"Never again," said Kinney, now 73. 
Kinney had trained under one of the greats in American photography, Ansel Adams, and shot photos of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death and Robert F. Kennedy days before his assassination. 
At the Post, he had set out to alert readers to the plight just on the other side of their county: Field hands were living in crushing poverty and forced into a nomadic life of indentured servitude. 
"His pictures are haunting. They capture people's essence," said Kent Pollock, the reporter who wrote the accompanying stories for the eight-day series in October 1969. "They evoke emotion." 
But the results were nothing like what Kinney expected. More than 1,500 of the paper's 70,000 readers cancelled their subscriptions. 
When the Pulitzer Prize was announced in 1970, Pollock, just 22 years old and caught up in the moment, poured champagne over Kinney's head and that image would be on the cover of the next day's paper. At least one migrant quoted in the series, feeling used, called to remind Kinney that his subjects were still languishing in the fields. 
Kinney walked into the managing editor's office the next day, closed the door, and said, "What do I do now?" 
"Imagine winning the ultimate prize and learning you had failed," said Kinney, who had grown up a poor Iowa farmer himself. "They didn't understand, and that's why it was a hollow victory." 
Even 40 years later, Pollock, today a professor of journalism at Sierra College in California, wonders whether the champagne bath, tied with the pressure of winning the Pulitzer at just 33, doomed Kinney's career.
"The Pulitzer drove Dallas out of the business," Pollock said. "I have, for a long time, felt guilty for pouring champagne over Dallas. I'm haunted by the belief that if I hadn't done that … I suppose he might have taken a different vision of the profession." 
The following year, Kinney left The Post and never again worked as a photojournalist. He returned to newspapers as an editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, even to The Post in 1973 as an editor, and was hired to document the last crusade of evangelist Billy Graham. But he never again published another photo as a journalist. 
By February 1976, after a failed marriage, Kinney started drinking to dull his senses. 
"I was a mess," Kinney said. "Divorced. Living in a little cubicle alone in an apartment above a garage. My best friends were a bottle of scotch in one hand and a Bible in the other." 
Then a friend dragged him to a meeting of Cursillos in Christianity, a moment that reconnected Kinney to an old friend - Lillie Mae Brown, the subject of his prize-winning photos. He had always been moved by the unwavering faith she felt would guide her from a life of suffering to the splendors of heaven. 
"That connection with God is something I'd never encountered before," Kinney said. "My providential meeting with Lillie Mae Brown and getting to know the same God she did, that is the core of who I am and what I'm doing." 
That winter, he married his current wife of 33 years, Martha. They moved to Mesa, Ariz., and ran a corporate communications company for more than 20 years before the couple moved to Dahlonega, Ga. 
Kinney still photographs to tell stories through the lens of a camera, but not for mass consumption. His pictures jump off the page, haunting in their richness, but he never thought of his photography as art. 
Rather, he said the camera was a "necessary intrusion" for helping others to understand a larger message. 
"I'm not a photographer, I'm a communicator," he said. "The camera was a tool to me, not a way of life."

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The photograph referred to above:  Pollock celebrates Kinney's Pulitzer win by pouring champagne over Kinney

Pollock went to the Philadelphia Inquirer, owned a small California weekly, ran a chain of weeklies, and eventually went to the Sacramento Bee, where at one point he oversaw some 200 people. He’s now a political consultant and a journalism professor at Sierra College in Rocklin in Northern California.

Kinney left the Palm Beach Post to document the lives of American Indians, then went to the Philadelphia Inquirer, returned briefly to the Post, ran a weekly in Sanibel, worked for the Christian Broadcasting Network in Virginia and ran a Christian communications business in Mesa, Ariz. He now is a lecturer and consultant in Dahlonega, Ga., north of Atlanta.

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To see more of Kinney's work, visit his website at

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