Saturday, September 23, 2023




Pulitzer Prizes for Photography:

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).

World Press Photo of the Year:

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".

The photographs are interesting not only in their own right but for being windows on history.



Press photographers, like journalists and reporters, are a breed apart – on the one hand, they bring to the attention of the public the items that are poignant, sad, horrific, whilst apparently remaining detached from what they are photographing and writing about. At what stage does it become voyeuristic and invasive?  When is it too much? Witness, for example, the photographs crushed against the wire in the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy when 97 Liverpool football fans lost their lives:

Recall also Kevin Carter's Pulitzer Prize–winning photograph of a starving Sudanese child and a vulture waiting in the background. The child survived. Carter didn’t – he took his own life 4 months after winning the Pulitzer.  Sometimes it takes a toll on the journos as well.

I mention this because the 1996 Pulitzer Prize in Spot News Photography, the next item in this continuing series, is particularly harrowing.

I was tempted to post a link to the photograph (as I had done with the Pulitzer winning photographs by Paul Watson of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu) but ultimately I felt that the photograph deserved to be posted.


Award: Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography

Year: 1996

Photographer: Charles Porter IV


For his haunting photographs, taken after the Oklahoma City bombing and distributed by the Associated Press, showing a one-year-old victim handed to and then cradled by a local fireman.  The photograph came to symbolise the lives lost in the deadliest act of homegrown terrorism in U.S. history.



The Story Behind the Photo

On the morning of April 19, 1995, Charles Porter IV was working in the loan department of Liberty Bank in Oklahoma City when a massive explosion jolted his office. “To me, it was a sonic boom,” said Porter. “We looked out the window and we saw this big brown cloud of debris and dust.” A photographer in his spare time, Porter grabbed his camera from the trunk of his car and rushed to the scene. The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building looked like a war zone. Broken glass littered the street. Rescue workers pulled bodies from the rubble. Bleeding victims staggered from the wreckage. The entire front of the building was gone. “It was just like it had been shaved off,” said Porter. Out of the corner of his eye, Porter saw a police officer hand something to a firefighter. “I didn’t know what he was carrying,” he said. “The next frame I took was the fireman holding this infant.” The bombing killed 168 people. Among the dead were 19 children, including 1-year-old Baylee Almon, the girl in the photo.
Further comments:
  • The Oklahoma City Bombing is one of the deadliest acts of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.
  • It was carried out by an American, Timothy McVeigh.
  • A Gulf War veteran, McVeigh sought revenge against the federal government for the 1993 Waco siege as well as the 1992 Ruby Ridge incident and American foreign policy. He hoped to inspire a revolution against the federal government, and defended the bombing as a legitimate tactic against what he saw as a tyrannical government. He was arrested shortly after the bombing and indicted on 160 state offenses and 11 federal offenses, including the use of a weapon of mass destruction. He was found guilty on all counts in 1997 and sentenced to death. McVeigh was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001.
  • Timothy McVeigh and his accomplices detonated a truck containing 2300 kilograms of explosives near the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on 19 April 1995. The blast killed 168 people, including 19 children under the age of 6, and injured more than 800 people. It also destroyed 324 buildings and 86 cars. A total damage of $652 million was estimated because of this explosion.

  • Porter’s photograph became iconic and is most associated with the event. After the bomb detonation, firefighters and locals were rummaging through the debris in hope to find survivors. Police sergeant John Avera located Baylee Almon’s tiny and half-burned body and shouted “I have a critical infant! I have a critical infant!”. He gave the one-year old baby to the Oklahoma City fire Captain, Chris Fields but the baby could not be saved. He died in a hospital located near the site of explosion.
  • Exactly 3 months after McVeigh’s execution on June 11, 2001, the September 11 attacks took place.
  • In May 1995, whatever was left of the Murrah building was demolished for the safety reasons. Now a national memorial stands at that site

The Field of Empty Chairs, east Gate of Time, and Reflecting Pool at the Oklahoma City National Memorial. The Survivor Tree is visible in the upper left corner.
  • Survivor Tree: an American elm on the north side of the Memorial that was heavily damaged by the bomb, but survived. Hundreds of seeds from the Survivor Tree are planted annually and the resulting saplings are distributed each year on the anniversary of the bombing. Thousands of Survivor Trees are growing in public and private places all over the U.S.


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