Sunday, March 9, 2014

Pulitzer Prize for Spot News 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).
From 1955 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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World Press Photograph of the Year
No award given

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Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography
Steve Starr
“Campus Guns”

In 1969 men walked on the moon and people enjoyed 3 days of peace and music, as it was billed, at Woodstock. It was not, however, 3 days of peace at Willard Straight Hall, commonly known as The Straight, the student union building on the central campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The Straight housed student quarters, accommodation for visiting parents and guests, student union offices and a theatre.

1969 was a time when the university was involved in disciplining African-American students who had taken part in a protest, leading to other African-American students demanding amnesty for the students involved and for the establishment of an African-American Studies Centre.

The following events then took place:

· On 11 April 1969 at the beginning of Parents’ Week, a burning cross was discovered on the lawn outside Wari House, a co-operative for black women students.

· The next morning members of the Afro-American Society (AAS) began an occupation of The Straight and evicted the parents staying at the hall, the purpose being to protest the perceived racism of the university.

· White Delta Upsilon fraternity brothers entered The Straight and fought with the AAS before being ejected. 

· Fearing further attacks, the black students brought guns into the building to defend themselves.

· Members of the Students for a Democratic Society, a noted left wing and violent student group, formed a cordon around The Straight.

· Police deputies from Rochester, Syracuse and across New York state massed in downtown Ithaca. It was feared that, according to one officer there, George Taber, "Had they gotten the command to do so, they would have gone and taken the Straight back and arrested people, or who knows what would have happened. It could have made Kent State and Jackson State look like the teddy bear's picnic. It would have been just absolutely terrible." 

· Fortunately, following negotiations with Cornell officials, the AAS students emerged from the Straight carrying rifles and wearing bandoleers. That image was captured by Associated Press photographer Steve Starr in his Pulitzer Prize-winning photo above.

· The photo appeared in newspapers across the country and on the cover of Newsweek magazine under the headline, "Universities Under the Gun."

According to Wikipedia:

On campus, the Straight Takeover led to the formation of the University Senate, a restructuring of the Board of Trustees, a new campus judicial system, and the foundation of the Africana Studies and Research Center. By the end of the academic year, Cornell President James Perkins resigned. 
Beyond Cornell, the Straight Takeover led to the New York State Legislature enacting the Henderson Law, which required each college to adopt "Rules of the Maintenance of Public Order." Vice President Spiro Agnew referred to the Straight Takeover in speeches as an example of the excess of college students. Thomas Sowell [who was teaching at Cornell at the time Otto] would later refer to the takeover as the result of policies intended to "increase minority student enrolment... by admitting students who would not meet the existing academic standards at Cornell." In Sowell's opinion, some of the militants accepted "turned out to be hoodlums who terrorized other black students".

Related pics from the University website at:

Photographer Steve Starr died in 2012, aged 65. In later years he had covered the Chicago social scene. According to friend and fashion show producer Tracey Tarentino “He just had so much energy and passion. He’d say, ‘Look! Look! Look! It’s good!’ and then explain why you looked good to him,” He made you feel like for that minute you were making the camera magic. And his excitement showed in his subjects.”

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  1. Hi, I'm very much alive so far, 2017, check out There was another Chicago steve Starr celeber photographer who died in 1992

    1. My apologies Steve, good to hear you are still with us. I imagine that you have had to offer this comment previously.


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