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2012 Pulitzer Prizes in Photography: Who Will Win?

Chuck DeLaney, Director, NYIP - On Monday, April 16th at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, the Pulitzer Prize Board will announce the winners of the 2012 Pulitzer Prizes in Journalism, Letters, Drama, and Music. Established by Joseph Pulitzer in 1917, the Pulitzer Prize has included photography since 1942. A single prize was given from 1942 to 1967. Starting in 1968 there have been two photography categories - one for Feature Photography and another for what was called Spot News until 1999, and is now called Breaking News Photography.


Waiting to find out who the photography Pulitzer winners are has always been one of the positive notes of mid-April in my book, something to look forward to, something to take away from the pain of those mid-April tax filings. I always think back to some of the great photos that have been cited by the Pulitzer Board. Perhaps the most iconic is Joe Rosenthal’s photo of the Marines placing the American flag on Mt. Surabachi on Iwo Jima that won in 1945. And there are many others that also come to mind: the 2002 Breaking News Photography award to the staff of the New York Times for its coverage of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the haunting photo by Kevin Carter that won the 1994 Feature Photography Pulitzer for a photo of a starving Sudanese girl who collapsed on her way to a feeding center. Perhaps as powerful a photo as had ever been recorded, a vulture waits in the back of the frame. Carter never recovered from the horrors that he witnessed and took his own life later that year.

Wondering about how it would feel to win a Pulitzer, I called Matthew Lewis, Jr., a NYIP graduate who won the Pulitzer for Feature Photography in 1975 for his photography for the Washington Post. 

His tale was fascinating. News in general didn’t travel quite as quickly back in those days. Lewis had prepared the submission, a series of both color and black-and-white layouts that had featured his work in the paper and its Sunday magazine section, months before.

The day the 1975 Pulitzer Prizes were announced, Lewis was on an assignment – photographing Frank Purdue, the Maryland farmer who revolutionized the poultry business. Here's his account of what happened.
These buildings held 50,000 chickens. I said ‘Mr. Purdue, would it be OK if I got a chair and asked you to stand on it?’ He said OK. Then I said, ‘Mr. Purdue, can I ask you to hold a chicken?’ He said sure. Later, when we got back to his office, his secretary told me the Washington Post had called and asked that I go back to the office.

I usually go home, particularly if it’s after 5 or 6 in the evening, so I drove back two hours wondering what in the devil I’d done wrong. I arrive at the Post, and take the elevator to the fifth floor. It’s evening time and at least 200 people are working in the newsroom. So I look toward the rear, and there are the editors and the great man himself – Ben Bradlee. As I walked toward them, they started smiling. Bradlee put his arms around me and started screaming, ‘You did it. You did it! You won a Pulitzer.’ And it was bedlam from then right through the next day.

Good luck to all the entrants. The world awaits the 2012 Pulitzer Prizes.

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I can't wait to hear the good news. Who will be the lucky one. Please update us. Thanks!
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