NEW YORK, NY – Photojournalists Patrick Farrell of The Miami Herald and Damon Winter of The New York Times have won this year's Pulitzer Prizes for Photography.
Farrell won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography, and Winter won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography.
Farrell won for his coverage of Hurricane Ike's devastation in Haiti and the humanitarian disaster that followed the storm, and Winter won for his coverage of President Barack Obama's campaign on the road to winning the White House.
Pulitzer judges said that Winter's coverage of the Obama campaign "deftly captured multiple facets" of the endeavor. Judges said Farrell's photographs of the natural disaster in Haiti were "provocative, impeccably composed images of despair."
Farrell told News Photographer magazine today that he was surprised by today's Pulitzer win.
"I am proud of the work, but I also know there was some great other work out there. Ultimately, it's about Haiti, and Haiti deserves the attention. Whenever we can get Haiti in the paper, and it gets some kind of response, it's good."
The 2008 trip to cover the Haiti disaster was one of the photojournalist's many journeys to the impoverished nation. He'd been there at least half a dozen times before, and was familiar with Haiti's suffering that takes place most of the time, even during the best of times.
"Here's a country that suffers anyway, and now the suffering was compounded by these storms," Farrell told News Photographer magazine. "I was in a fog that day, I really don't know how I was pressing the shutter. I realized afterwards that this was important stuff, and I wondered how and why this could happen. In Florida, there would never be this kind of a death toll after a storm. We have organized evacuations, we have plans."
Farrell's coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Ike showed what happened when Haiti had been hit by four powerful storms in less than a month. Flooding after Ike overwhelmed the island nation. More than 800 died, and 1 million were left homeless by the storms. His winning essay of 19 black-and-white photographs is titled "A People In Despair: Haiti's Year Without Mercy," and the images show flooding in the streets of Gonaives, a school collapse aftermath in Port au Prince, and the widespread death of children in Cabaret where youngsters were washed away from their parents' arms by raging floods.
Farrell, 49, has been a staff photographer at the Herald since 1987. He was part of the Herald staff that won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for their reporting on Hurricane Andrew's devastation of South Florida. He's a 1981 University of Miami graduate, and a two-time winner of the National Press Photographers Association's Region 6 Photographer of the Year title.
Photographs that made up Winter's Pulitzer Prize-winning essay were also pictures that were contained in his first place Road To Office Picture Story in this year's 2009 Best Of Photojournalism competition, the National Press Photographers Association's annual world-wide, free photojournalism contest.
Winter, 34, joined the photography staff of The New York Times in 2007 after working for three years at the Los Angeles Times and before that, at The Dallas Morning News. He was the NPPA Region 8 Photographer of the Year in 2002, and he's also shot for Newsweek, Magnum, the Ventura County Star, and the Indianapolis Star during his career. In 2005, he was a nominated finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Photography for his coverage of sexual abuse victims in western Alaska. He's a graduate of Columbia University with a degree in environmental science and he grew up in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.
"I have witnesses who've seen me actually pinching myself because I felt so lucky to have the opportunity to be out there on the campaign trail week after week," Winter told News Photographer magazine today from The New York Times' newsroom.
"I'd covered conventions before at The Dallas Morning News and at the Los Angeles Times, but this is the first newspaper that I've worked for that had the resources to cover the campaign the way we did this year," Winter said. "For a photographer a presidential candidacy can be tough to cover, but I was lucky that this was a great opportunity for a visual journalist." Winter said the Obama campaign had "great moments, and great crowds."
In the four years since the last presidential race, The New York Times has changed a lot in how it presents photographs, and the type of photographs that make the front page from political reportage. Much of that can be credited to the work of assistant managing editor for photography Michele McNally's influence on both the newspaper and the photographers' work, including a new style of political photography that was brought to the Times by photojournalist Stephen Crowley.
"Crowley's been doing this for years, and I've learned a lot from what's been done here," Winter said today.
The changes McNally and others have brought to the Times' use of pictures has been noticed by many.
"When I was out on the campaign trail, people would pick up The New York Times to see what kind of adventuresome, daring political photo coverage had been published that day," Winter said. "When I was growing up, The New York Times certainly wasn't the place you looked to for stunning or different or provocative photos like it is now."
While Winter admits that his career working at the Times and The Dallas Morning News and Los Angeles Times have been great photographic opportunities at papers that use pictures well, and that chase top news stories, he also says "It wasn't all roses. There were plenty of rejections too. But I've worked at some pretty good newspapers during some pretty good times. In Los Angeles, it was rare to see other photographers. Since moving to New York, and being on the campaign trail, it's been good to be around other photojournalists."
How is Winter celebrating winning a Pulitzer Prize?
"I'm off to West Virginia on assignment for the next few days. I think it's a good thing. I don't think it would be good to sit around for too long thinking about it."
Finalists in the Breaking News category this year were the Associated Press for their coverage of China's deadly earthquake in Sichuan, and Carolyn Cole of the Los Angeles Times for her coverage of political violence in Kenya.
Finalists for the Feature Photography category were Carol Guzy of The Washington Post for her coverage of the perils and sorrow of childbirth in Sierra Leone, and Sonya Hebert of The Dallas Morning News for her essay on palliative care in a Texas medical center where terminally ill patients cope with the end of their lives.
The jurors who picked this year's Pulitzer Prize winners in the photography categories were Dan Habib, formerly of the Concord Monitor and now a filmmaker in residence at the University of New Hampshire; Naomi Halperin, photography editor of The Morning Call in Allentown, PA; Karen Magnuson, editor and vice president of news for the Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, NY; Zach Ryall, Internet managing editor for the Austin American-Statesman; and McNally.
Winter's Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography was one of five Pulitzers won today by The New York Times.