Saturday, December 6, 2014

Pulitzer and World Press Photos of the Year: 1975

Caution: Disturbing images

The Pulitzer and World Press Photos of the Year continued: 

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, as it has been called since 2000); 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".

Photographs of the Year:

1975 Pulitzer Spot (Breaking) News Photograph Winner:

Gerald H Gay, Seattle Times, for his photograph of four exhausted firefighters “Lull in the Battle”

Few will have forgotten the poignant 9/11 images of exhausted and bereaved firefighters at Ground Zero when the towers fell. Nearly 40 years ago a similar photograph, shown above, won photographer Gerald Gay a Pulitzer. 

Listening to a scanner in the early morning alerted Gay to a house fire. According to Gay, he had been a fire junkie since grade school "and would jump on my bicycle with my Kodak Pony 4 camera and chase fire engines." Later in life, while a photographer for The Times, the Seattle P-I and the Everett Herald, he kept a police and fire call scanner "in my car and under my bed, and would always be leaping into my clothes at whatever hour to chase a fire call."

When he arrived at the fire in Burien, south of Seattle, he found that the firefighting had been done. What remained was mud, morning fog, smoke and smell. Plus tired firefighters, four resting against a muddy bank. "I took six or eight frames, all at once," Gay recalled. "They all had a deep, reflective look. I could tell they were rethinking what they'd just been through."

By 1975 the public had seen many photographs of similar tired, reflective young men, but in the context of troops in Vietnam on the front line, pausing after battle. The analogy was also apparent to The Seattle Times, which published the photo that day under the byline "A Lull in the Battle." 

“They were wearing bunker jackets and the three men in front had their helmets off, and with the dense smoke in the background the picture looked to be soldiers in war scene. This is probably why the editors chose the title ‘Lull In The Battle’ ."   - Gerald Gay

Also according to Gay the photograph “ powerfully depicts firemen in a moment of deep reflection after battling a house fire. The photograph speaks of courage, dedication and humanity during the troubled times of the Vietnam War, when many thought our country was other than courageous, dedicated or humanitarian. Like all of my photographs, this picture allows us to travel beyond the obvious and capture the essential about the individual as well as the collective. It urges us to take another look and remember who we are. “

Gay has also been quoted about another aspect of the Burien fire: "The family in that house had found a stray dog that day, and were just planning on keeping it overnight until they could take it to a shelter or find it another home. Well, when the fire started in the basement, that dog went crazy barking, and woke up the whole family. The house was destroyed, but the stray dog saved that family. I think they kept it."

The Pulitzer Prize-winning photo later became a national fire-prevention poster. 

Years after the fire and the awarding of the Pulitzer, the four firefighters got together to sign the photograph and market it. According to one of the firefighters in the photograph, Chris Kitterman, this was "not to make money but to help tell the whole story of firefighting, to send a little message to, and for, the 3 million firefighters in the U.S. and Canada." Profits were paid to the Northwest Burns Foundation.

The prints were purposely limited to an edition of 911 prints, the universal fire/police emergency phone number.

1975 Pulitzer Feature Photograph Winner:

Miatthew Lewis, for a body of colour and black and white photographs.

According to an article, The Great American Photographer” by Michael Graff:

Click. That’s it. That’s all the time it takes. A click. And it’s there forever. The photograph is a stopped moment, neither moving nor sounding. 
Matthew Lewis Jr’s life is a collection of clicks. For nearly a half-century, starting as a freelancer and continuing during 25 years at The Washington Post and later through “retirement” at The Thomasville Times, he assembled a portfolio thousands deep. He clicked Jacqueline Kennedy crying at President Kennedy’s funeral, a woman praying at the 1963 March on Washington, black men pleading to not be beaten by white officers during the Poor People’s Campaign, and a woman breaking into a store during the D.C. riots. And more. He has the Chicken King holding a chicken, Apollo 9 before it went into space, the Splendid Splinter after he quit playing, and a Beatle without his microphone. He has several of the Washington Redskins, but he prefers those of the Thomasville Bulldogs. 
Lewis spent his life turning his camera toward America and clicking. He documented the world as he saw it, and he reached the pinnacle of his profession, winning the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. 
. . . . 
He’s a small man with a white ponytail, and he grew up swimming in sulfur ponds in McDonald, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. He went to college to become a jazz musician but packed up and came home after one semester. He was a medic with both the United States Navy and the Marine Corps. He returned and worked in a foundry blasting steel, a job that required him to wear leather leggings, jackets, and gloves, along with iron-tip shoes and a helmet that allowed him to breathe through a hose connected to a respirator. 
Humility is important to Lewis. He knows where he started. 
“I’ve been lucky in so many ways,” Lewis says over and over again. “And I don’t know why. I’ll never know why.” 

Lewis’s Pulitzer was the first Pulitzer Prize ever given to a portfolio of colour pictures, and Lewis was the first photographer at The Washington Post to have ever been awarded a Pulitzer Prize. 

It is difficult to find any of Lewis’ photographs online, here are a couple: 

1975 World Press Photograph of the Year:

Stanley Forman for his photograph "Fire Escape Collapse"

Stanley Forman (1945 - ) was awarded an amazing 3 Pulitzers over a 4 year period. One of those Pulitzers, in 1976, was for a series of photographs about a tragic fire escape collapse, a photograph from that series also garnering him the 1975 World Press Photograph of the Year award. The photograph is shown above.

As Forman ws about to finish for the day, he heard a report of a fire in Boston’s Back Bay. He followed the fire trucks to a six-story apartment house in flames. The blaze is intense and firefighters are in the process of rescuing two persons from a fire escape. The persons are 19-year-old Diana Bryant and her 2-year-old goddaughter Tiare Jones. As a turntable ladder was extending to pick them up from their fifth story balcony 15 metres in the air, things go wrong.


“It was 22 July 1975. I was about to leave the offices of the Boston Herald for the day. A call came in about a fire in one of the city’s older sections of Victorian row houses. I rushed to the house and followed one of the engines to the fire. I ran to the back of the building, because on the way there they kept yelling for a ladder truck because there were people trapped in the building on the fire escape.
I ran to the back of the building and when I looked up there was a woman and a child on the fire escape and they were basically leaning at the furthest point from the building because of the heat of the fire behind them. In the meantime, a firefighter called Bob O’Neil had climbed on to the front of the building on the roof and saw the pair on the fire escape. He lowered himself on to the fire escape to rescue them. 
I took a position where I could photograph what I thought was an impending routine rescue. The ladder went up to pick them up – they were about 50ft (15m) up. Mr O’Neill had just told Diana Bryant that he was going to step onto the ladder and asked her to hand the baby to him. Mr O’Neil was reaching out for the ladder when suddenly the fire escape gave way. I was shooting pictures as they were falling – then I turned away. It dawned on me what was happening and I didn’t want to see them hit the ground. I can still remember turning around and shaking. 
It transpired that I wouldn’t have seen them hit the ground as they fell behind a fence where the bins were. When I did turn around I didn’t see them but I saw the firefighter still clinging onto the ladder with one arm, like a monkey, with all his gear. He hoisted himself back up the fire escape to safety. They say the woman broke the child’s fall. The woman died later that night.”

The photo series:

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