Sunday, June 9, 2013

Pulitzer and World Press Photos of the Year: 1962

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:  1962

Award:  Pulitzer Prize for Photography

Photographer:  Paul Vathis, of Associated Press

Photograph:  Serious Steps

About the photograph:

April 1961 and the new government of President John F Kennedy is beset by problems and difficulties. The Bay of Pigs Invasion, an attempt by a CIA trained force of Cuban exiles to invade southern Cuba to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro, had proved disastrous. Supported by the US government and encouraged by it, the fallout tarnished Kennedy. Castro was furious and Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev capitalised on the situation, hammering the US publicly. The Cold War still raged. Many began to question Kennedy’s fitness to lead.

Kennedy, hurting from the bungled Cuba op, invited former President Eisenhower to lunch at Camp David. “I asked President Eisenhower here to bring him up to date on recent events and get the benefit of his thoughts and experience” said Kennedy to the press contingent covering the meet. Privately Eisenhower blamed Kennedy for failing to adequately consider and assess the proposed invasion, for failure to adopt a leadership role in respect of it and for failing to ensure that it would be successful once he had decided to go with it. Publicly he said “I am all in favor of the United States supporting the man who has to carry the responsibility for our foreign affairs.”

The press were given their photo opportunity and the leader and former leader obliged. Here are some of the photo op shots:

The photo op finished, the photographers began to leave. Vathis heard Eisenhower tell Kennedy “I know a place where we can talk.” (This was Kennedy's first trip to Camp David; Eisenhower had regularly conducted business at Camp David and had invited numerous foreign heads ther, including Kruschev) The new president and the former president, former general, headed away from the throng.

As Vathis kneeled to pack his camera, he glanced up. He later recalled “There were just two of them, all by themselves, their heads bowed, walking up the path. They looked so lonely.”

Press Secretary Pierre Salinger had said no more pictures but Vathis was unable to resist. He grabbed his camera and fired off two quick shots between the legs of a surprised Secret Service agent. The press secretary was not pleased. According to Vathis “Pierre said ‘I told you guys to leave this alone,’ and I said, 'I’m just changing my film.' ” 

Vathis’s photograph expressed more than the posed photographs taken earlier, an unguarded moment when a young president, battered and with the weight of the world on his shoulders, seeks advice from an older predecessor, the man he replaced.

About the photographer:

Paul Vathis was born in 1925, one of 8 children of Greek immigrant parents in Pennsylvania. A marine combat veteran, he photographed bomb damage of South pacific island caves despite never having held a camera prior to WW2. He joined Associated Press in 1946 and remained a photographer there for the next 56 years.

In 2002 he died in his sleep at home, aged 77.

During his career Vathis provided the only newspaper photographs of Wilt Chamberlain's history-making 100-point basketball game in 1962. He had gone to the game as a spectator, taking his son as a 10th birthday present. He also photographed the 1987 suicide at a news conference of R. Budd Dwyer, Pennsylvania state treasurer at the time, after he was convicted of taking a bribe. In 1979 Vathis also covered the Three Mile Island nuclear power accident.

Then-Gov. Tom Ridge dashes into the press pool covering the National Governors Association 92nd Annual Meeting to greet Associated Press photographer Paul Vathis, a familiar face from Harrisburg.

By the way:

The presidential retreat known as Camp David had been established by President Franklin Roosevelt but had been known as “Shangri-la”. Eisenhower planned to close the retreat and get rid of other “needless luxuries” upon taking office in 1953 but, after visiting it, he decided to retain it.  He did however change the name,  naming it “Camp David” after his grandson David Eisenhower. His political opponents talked of renaming it Shangri-la after Ike left office but Kennedy, after defeating Eisenhower, vetoed any name change and so it has remained to the present.


Year:  1962

Award:  World Press Photograph of the Year

Photographer:  Hector Rondon Lovera

Photograph:  “Aid from the Padre”


In 1961 and 1962 there were a number of military revolts in Venezuela against the government, all unsuccessful, with shooting and death in the streets.

On 4 June 1962 Navy chaplain Luis Padillo was in the middle of one such revolt, at Puerto Cabello. It was the scene of some of the bitterest fighting in Venezuelan history. Official casualty figures for the military were 47 dead and 89 wounded. Unofficial estimates put the toll, including civilians, at more than 300 dead.

Padillo was in the midst of the fighting, giving last rites to dying soldiers. With sniper fire bullets hitting the ground nearby, a wounded soldier pulled himself up by clinging to the priest’s cassock. Mortally wounded, he continued to hold onto the priest, almost like a child clinging to its mother.

Photographer Hector Rondon Lovera arrived in the town just as tanks began rolling in. The above photograph was taken from a position of lying flat on the ground to avoid being shot. He said later that he was unaware as to how he came to take it.

The other photographs taken by Lovera that day – the fighting, the injured, the dead – can be viewed by clicking on the following link:

Padillo continued giving last rites to the dying:

By the way:

On a different, but related, aspect, those whose knowledge of the art of Norman Rockwell is limited to Saturday Evening Post covers may be surprised to learn of a different side. In 1963 Rockwell left the Post for Look magazine. No longer tied to painting nostalgia and whimsy, he began recording reality as part of his support of the Civil Rights Movement. His painting Murder in Mississipppi, his version of the murders of three young civil rights workers in Mississippi, is based on Lovera’s photograph:

A look at Rockwell's works and analyses of some of his paintings, including Murder in Mississippi, can be read at:


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