Saturday, January 31, 2015

Pulitzer and World Press Photographs of the Year: 1976

Caution: Disturbing images

The Pulitzer and World Press Photos of the Year continued:

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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".

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Award: Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography, 1976

Photographer: Stanley Forman (1945 - ), Boston Herald American

Photograph: Sequence of Photographs ‘Fire Escape Collapse’

The above photograph and the series from which it comes was the winner of the World Press Photograph of the Year in 1975 and has already been the subject of a Bytes post at:

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Award: Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography

Photographer: Photographic staff of the Louisville Courier-Journal and Times, "for a comprehensive pictorial report on busing in Louisville's schools."

Photograph: "a comprehensive pictorial report on busing in Louisville's schools."


In 1954 the US Supreme Court, in Brown v Board of Education, had declared racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. Not all States embraced a new spirit of integration, strong opposition remaining in the South and other areas. The impact of the ruling was limited because whites and blacks tended to live in all-white or all-black communities. 

In 1971 the Supreme Court ruled in another landmark decision, Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, that federal courts could include busing as a desegregation tool to achieve racial balance. This was not just integration being left to voluntary adoption, it was forced integration, beginning with children and young people. Busing, also known as desegration busing, was the practice of white students being forced to attend all-black schools and black students being forced to attend all-white schools. That was also not universally embraced.

In Louisville, Kentucky, many residents opposed busing and considered it abhorrent. Groups such as Concerned Parents Against Busing mounted campaigns against the practice but the yellow buses rolled anyway, carrying black kids, white kids and State police. 577 buses transported 90,000 children the first day, notwithstanding a 40% absenteeism of white children.

Protest escalated into violence in Louisville. Two days of anti-busing fever saw businesses vandalised and properties destroyed by fire. When the smoke and tear gas cleared, 100 people had been injured and 200 arrested. All the while the yellow buses kept rolling.

The staff of the Louisville Courier-Journal took 70 photographs of the busing conflict in 1975 and garnered a 1976 Pulitzer for Feature Photography.

The above photograph, one of that series, shows 8 year old Mark Stewart (seated) shaking hands with Darrel Hughes, also 8, on their first day of class for the new school year at Greenwood Elementary. It is significant that there are no other children shown. They were the only 2 attendees, other children having been held back by their parents by way of a boycott or because buses were sometimes late as a result of initial difficulties.

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Award: World Press Photograph of the Year, 1976

Photographer: Francoise Demulder (1947-2008)

Photograph: Civil War in Lebanon


The Lebanese Civil War was a multifaceted civil war in Lebanon. The war lasted from 1975 to 1990 and resulted in an estimated 130,000 to 250,000 civilian fatalities. Approximately one million people (one third of the
population) were wounded, half of whom were left with lifetime disabilities.

Fran├žoise Demulder captured this award winning photograph in January of 1976. It shows a group of Palestinian refugees fleeing Beirut, with Palestinian woman pleading with a masked, armed Phalangist. The photo symbolises the horrors of the wars that afflicted Lebanon for 15 years. 

Francoise Demulder was one of a talented cohort of French female war photographers who first made their mark in Vietnam. She was the first woman to win the coveted World Press Photo of the Year award.

Fifi, as Demulder was known, died at 61 in 2008 after being paralysed from the waist down for most of the decade because of a surgical error. That infirmity was borne with stoicism and humour.

Originally a student of philosophy, then a model, she took to photography when visiting Vietnam with her boyfriend. Using friends in the military for tipoffs and transport, she made a living as a war photographer by being in the right spot at the right time, usually getting there by helicopter or motorbike.

Of her winning photograph, she has said that caused her professional grief: "From then on it was no longer good Christians and wicked Palestinians, and the Phalangists never forgave me." But it led to an enduring friendship with the Palestine Liberation Organisation leader, Yasser Arafat. The photo was plastered on the walls of Beirut not under Phalangist control.

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