Death, Race and Pulitzers

mainstream media, musings, photojournalism

Today it was announced that Reuters photographer Adrees Latif won a Pulitzer for his image of the death of Kenji Nagai, a Japanese videographer. You can read the backstory behind the shot here, on the Reuters photo blog.

What’s missing to me in the blog post is info about Nagai himself, shown here in a handout image via Kyodo circa 2003.

According to a 9/28/07 Reuters article, “…Nagai, 50, was shot dead on a Yangon street on Thursday. Pictures smuggled out of the country showed him taking photos with a small camera even as he lay dying.”

Nagai worked for the Japanese news agency APF News. The Times Online reported that the journalist’s mantra was ““Someone has to go to the places nobody wants to go.”

The winning photograph is here.

Has anyone recently looked through the history of Pultizer-winning photos, and analyzing them based on content? How many images do you think describe the moments before, during, or after someone is killed?

What do you think sells the most? The look on someone’s face before or after dying? Or would it be that last magical moment, a final fraction of consciousness?

Not to be cynical, but after leafing through the latest issue of News Photographer magazine, my curiosity is piqued. The cover image of the mag is another from a Pulitzer-winning take, although it’s not the exact frame that won the prize. It looks like it’s sequentially just a frame or two before. In it, a black woman, Diane Bryant, is caught in falling in mid-air seconds before her death.

How often have photographs of dead white bodies have won Pulitzers? How many dead or about-to-be dead people of color?

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