Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pulitzer and World Press Pics of the Year: 1960 and 1961

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. 




Pulitzer Prize for Photography 


Andrew Lopez of United Press International 

A series of four photographs of a corporal, formerly of Dictator Fulgencio Batista’s's army, who was executed by a Fidel Castro firing squad, the principal picture showing the condemned man receiving last rites. 


Andrew Lopez was born May 10, 1910, in Spain and came to the United States when he was 4. 

In 1947 Lopez was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the highest award that can be bestowed on a citizen, for helping rescue several soldiers who had been caught in a German trap in World War II. General Dwight D. Eisenhower gave Lopez the award. 

Lopez, who taught himself how to take pictures with a box camera, worked as a war correspondent in Europe during World War II and his assignments included Italy, Normandy and Germany. 

The Cuban Revolution was an armed revolt by Fidel Castro’s and his Barbudos (“Bearded Ones”) guerillas against the regime of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista between 1953 and 1959. Batista was ousted on 1 January 1959 and was replaced by Castro's revolutionary government. This government later reformed along communist lines, becoming the present Communist Party of Cuba in October 1965. 

Lopez was present in Cuba in 1959 to record Castro’s rise to power On 17 January of that year he photographed a Batista loyalist kneeling and holding a crucifix as a priest blessed him and gunmen waited to execute him. 

The Batista loyalist who was to be executed was army corporal Jose Rodriguez, known as “Pepe Caliente” (“Hot Pete”). Pepe had been tried in a war crimes trial where hundreds had gathered to testify as to his brutality. 

According to photographer Lopez “The entire trial took two hours, (but it took only) one minute for three tribunal judges to condemn Pepe to death.” 

Pepe was taken to a courtyard where he dropped to his knees as a priest administered last rites. The prosecutor, rebel major Willy Galvez, screamed at Lopez to stop taking pictures. “I was standing there arguing with him, and in the background I could see eight or nine Barbudos waiting for all this to end so they could get on with their business and shoot this guy.” The prosecutor demanded that Lopez surrender his film and Lopez handed over a roll. “I kept the one with Pepe on it," he said. 

Lopez died in 1986 of cancer, having remained with UPI until 1983. 




World Press Photograph of the Year 


Yashusi Nagao 


“Tokyo Stabbing” 


12 October, 1960 and 3,000 people are crammed into Tokyo’s Hibiya Hall to hear socialist party chairman Inejiro Asanuma debate Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda on the US-Japan Security Treaty. 

Asanuma was head of the Japanese Socialist Party and a supporter of the Chinese Communist Party, a stance which drew criticism from both the right and his own colleagues. 

During the 1960 debate, Asanuma criticised the government for its mutual defence treaty with the United States. Right-wing students in the audience began to heckle and throw pieces of paper. Police rushed in and most of the press photographic contingent followed that melee, hoping to get some good crowd shots. 

Nagao chose to remain on the stage. One student, the 17-year-old son of a Self-Defence Force Colonel, Otoya Yamaguchi, ran out of the police cordon carrying a samurai sword. Before anyone could stop him, he plunged his sword into Asanuma, pulled it out and speared Asanuma again through the heart. Less than three weeks after the assassination, while being held in a juvenile detention facility, Yamaguchi used his bedsheet to hang himself. More people attended his funeral than the state service for Asanuma. 

Photographer Yashusi Nagao had frantically refocused his camera, by instinct, as Yamaguchi ran forward. Yamaguchi’s first strike had caused both to come out from behind the podium. As Yamaguchi prepared to thrust his blade into Asanuma a second time, Nagao took his award winning photograph using the last shot in his film pack. 

Nagao’s photograph was published worldwide. It was awarded not only the prize for World Press Photograph of the Year, it also won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography in 1961 

With the award Nagao was able to travel freely around the world, something that was difficult for Japanese citizens at the time. He died of natural causes on May 2, 2009. 

1961 Pulitzer Prize for Photography: Nagao’s Tokyo Stabbing, as above. 

1961 World Press Photograph of the Year: No award given

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