By Donald R. Winslow
NEW YORK, NY (April 14, 2014) – Two photojournalists for The New York Times won the Breaking News and Feature Pulitzer Prizes for Photography today, Columbia University just announced.
Tyler Hicks won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for his coverage of a terrorist attack on the upscale Westgate Shopping Center in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2013. Close to the mall when the attack began, Hicks raced to the scene and entered the building with security forces while it was still under siege, capturing dramatic images as the police response unfolded.
And Josh Haner won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for "Beyond The Finish Line," his documentation of the long and painful recovery of Boston Marathon bombing victim Jeff Bauman. The resolute young man had been standing at the marathon's finish line waiting to cheer on his runner girlfriend when one of the backpack bombs exploded, taking off both of his legs.
The nominated finalists in the Breaking News Photography category were John Tlumacki and David L. Ryan of The Boston Globe for their coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings, and Goran Tomasevic of Reuters for his photographs of fierce combat on the rebel frontline in Syria's civil war. And the nominated finalists in the Feature Photography category were Lacy Atkins of The San Francisco Chronicle for her coverage of an Oakland, CA, school's efforts to help African-American boys avoid risks, and Michael Williamson of The Washington Post for his documentary photographs of the impact of the American foodstamp program.
Now based in Kenya after covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and being held hostage during the civil war in Libya, Hicks came to New York to be in the newsroom for today's announcement. In 2009, Hicks was part of a New York Times team that won a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting, but today's Pulitzer is his first for photography.
Hicks was picking up framed photographic prints at a retail store in Nairobi on September 21, 2013, when the terrorist attack at the mall began. While he raced to the scene with a small camera, his wife – photojournalist Nicole Sobecki – met him at the shopping center to bring him his professional cameras and protective gear as well as to start covering the news herself. As the attack continued, Hicks entered the building through a door where terrified shoppers were racing out to safety. Following police as they advanced through the building, Hicks began making pictures.
The photographer knew the shopping center fairly well because he had shopped there before, he told LENS blog co-director James Estrin during a September 2013 interview. He followed the police as they advanced through the building, and it wasn't long before they started to come across victims. In the end, 39 people were killed and almost 200 were wounded.
During an interview for LENS, Hicks detailed for Estrin what he saw and photographed during the massacre.
"I had a clear view in there. 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," Hicks said. "It seemed everywhere you turned there was another body."
The veteran war photographer told Estrin that covering the shopping center massacre was just as dangerous as anything he had encountered in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Libya.
"You have to think about where you’re standing, you have to think about where you have cover, the type of obstacles you can place between you and potential gunmen. A lot of the same rules [of war] apply when they’re sweeping through a building like that."
But the Kenya mall killings by a group of terrorists was different than combat, Hicks said.
"This is just plain and simple murder of unarmed civilians. It’s not a war. These militants went into the mall and executed people: women and children, anyone who got in their path. That’s not typical of war."
Hicks, 44, was born in Brazil but raised in Connecticut. A graduate of Boston University, his photojournalism career began at the Troy Daily News in Ohio where he was hired by their then-chief photographer, Chris Hondros. Hondros had come to the Midwest for a master's degree at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication (VisCom). When Hondros was finished in Athens, he went to work at the newspaper in Troy. After Hicks and Hondros worked side by side in Troy, Hondros eventually left for North Carolina and a staff photography job in Fayetteville. Later Hicks moved to the Tar Heel state as well, going to work for a newspaper in Wilmington. His career advanced, and Hicks started as a contract photographer for The New York Times in 1999 and he was hired as a staff photographer in 2002.
In 2011 while covering the uprising in Libya, Hicks was taken hostage and detained for several days along with Anthony Shadid, Stephen Farrell, and Lynsey Addario. It was only a month later, on April 20, 2011, when Hick's friend Hondros died alongside photojournalist Tim Hetherington in Misrata, killed by Libyan government forces as the photographers covered the besieged city that was held by rebels.
Hondros is gone now, but the two veteran war photographers who were great, fast friends in life still seem to be taking some career steps together. Just last week the new book "Testament," a collection of war photographs in tribute to Hondros, was unveiled. And now this week his friend Hicks has won a Pulitzer Prize.
The night of the Boston Marathon bombings, Haner went to the terrified city along with Times reporters to cover the aftermath. Reporter Tim Rohan built a relationship with blast victim Jeff Bauman in the days that followed the bombings. Bauman had become an early visual icon of the tragedy in a photograph shot by Associated Press staffer Charles Krupa that went viral around the world. Bauman had been standing at the race's finish line waiting for his runner girlfriend when one of the bombs went off. Krupa's picture showed rescue workers and Samaritans rushing Bauman in a wheelchair down a street to safety, both of his legs shredded and blown away at the knees. [Bauman wrote a first-person account of his feelings about Krupa's photograph, and then later meeting the photographer, that was published today here in the Guardian.]
Rohan introduced Haner to Bauman and then, the reporter said, he stood back and watched the relationship grow between the photographer and the recovering patient.
Haner followed Bauman for more than two months, shooting still photographs on two DSLRs and video on two other DSLRs. Collaborating with Rohan, the result was a multimedia story published on The New York Times Web site called "Beyond The Finish Line." A few weeks ago "Beyond The Finish Line" won First Place in NPPA's Best Of Photojournalism's Multimedia contest in the Sports Multimedia Story category. Rohan has described the award-winning project from the reporter's point of view in a Nieman Storyboard Notable Narrative that is online here.
Haner told the LENS blog that he started photography when he was only 10, in a free community darkroom in San Francisco. He graduated from Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA, with a degree relating to computer science. While in college he was a picture editor at the Stanford student newspaper. Also while he was in the Bay Area he was an intern for the "A Day In The Life ..." production team of Rick Smolan and David Elliot Cohen in Sausalito, working on the America 24/7 project. After college Haner went to work for Fortune magazine when Michele McNally was the magazine's photography editor, in the days before she came to The New York Times as director of photography in May 2004.
Haner followed McNally to the Times and he's made many several important technology contributions to how the newspaper handles photography. He was the co-founder of the LENS blog in 2009, and while he came to the Times as a staff photographer he is now the senior editor for photography technology. Haner developed a device and methodology for transmitting photographs from a backpack that sends images to the office nearly instantly, as they are being shot, which allows the Times to get pictures online minutes before their competition, according to a story published earlier today on LENS.
In addition to his work at the Times, Haner is an amateur baseball player in the Pancho Coimbre League in Manhattan and by most accounts, he's very talented at baseball in addition to photography.
In an interesting footnote to today's Pulitzer Prizes, the winning portfolio by Tyler Hicks was entered in the competition by the newspaper while Haner entered the contest on his own.
The jury for both of the Pulitzer photography categories this year was Janet Reeves, formerly of the Rocky Mountain News and the Minneapolis Star Tribune; Kathy Kieliszewski of the Detroit Free Press; Kevin Martin of the Knoxville News Sentinel; Barbara Roessner of Hearst Connecticut Media; and Judy Walgren of The San Francisco Chronicle.
This is the second time The New York Times has won both of the photography Pulitzer Prizes in the same year, according to an article in the LENS blog. In 2002 the Times won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for their coverage of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and that same year the staff won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for their ongoing chronicle of the pain and perseverance of the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan during the prolonged wars in both countries.