Two photojournalists from the New York Times earned the Pulitzer Prizes in photography this year. The announcement of the NYT’s Pulitzer sweep was made on Monday, at Columbia University where the awards are given out.
Tyler Hicks won the Pulitzer for Breaking News Photography for the “compelling pictures that showed skill and bravery in documenting the unfolding terrorist attack” that happened in Nairobi, Kenya at the upscale Westgate mall–an event that left 60 dead bodies in its wake. Hicks lived nearby, so when the gunmen open fired there, he was able to rush over and cover the story as it quickly began to play out.
Hicks was part of the NYT team who won a Pulitzer in 2009 for international reporting, and has also won a myriad of different international awards, which includes Newspaper Photographer of the Year from Pictures of the Year International in 2006.
Describing the scene, Hicks said “I could see that there were multiple bodies lying dead in the mall, some lying together just next to where they were having lunch at a cafe,” he said. “It seemed everywhere you turned there was another body.”
Josh Haner won the Pulitzer for Feature Photography in recognition of his moving photo-essay that documented the painful recovery of Jeff Bauman, a Boston Marathon victims who lost both of his legs in the blast. Haner followed Bauman for two and a half months, chronicling his private moments and struggles.
Speaking on the project, Haner said, ““The most important thing I learned was when to not take a picture — knowing that there were certain moments to be respected and just let the moment stand on its own without the interruption of a click.” He continued, “It’s knowing when a picture is exploitative and when it’s necessary for the story.”
This year is the second time that the NYT has earned both Pulitzer photography prizers in the same contest year. Back in 2002, photographers from the NYT won the feature award for the work of five different photographers in Afghanistan and Pakistan after the events of 9/11, and the breaking news award was won by portfolio put together by 15 photojournalists who covered the events of Sept. 11 as they unfolded.
“My concern is that people forget tragedies like this,” Haner said. “It’s important to bring attention to what survivors are going through and how their lives change, and help them.”
Hicks related similar thoughts, saying,“I think it would be disrespectful to the people you’ve photographed suffering in terrible circumstances to tuck those memories away and ignore them. You owe it to each person to not forget what happened. Once you have witnessed these events then they are part of you, they are a part of who you are.”
“New York Times photographers have played a role in some of the most iconic images of the past century,” says Fred Tilner, manager and marketing director of 42nd Street Photo, a popular New York City camera store. “This year’s winners convey the emotional depth of the tragic terrorist attack in Kenya and the heart wrenching aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing in ways that will remain etched in our collective consciousness for years to come.”