Washington Post Pulitzer Prize Winners

Apr 18, 2011

Three Washington Post photographers were awarded the Pulitzer Prize in breaking news photography today. Carol Guzy, Nikki Kahn and Ricky Carioti will be online Monday, April 18 at 4:30 p.m. ET to discuss their experiences and work.

Have a question? Ask now.

Nikki, Carol and Ricky: This award is an amazing tribute to the people of Haiti, the tenacity of the Haitian spirit and the profound sorrow the Haitian heart has had to endure. It's hard to celebrate an award for something that's so very sad.

When taking photographs of shocks or disgraces, Journalists must empathize or alienate themselves from whats going on? What crosses your mind in moments like this, when taking pictures of suffer? I'm a writer journalist, not a graphic one, so I'd like to know your point of view. And congratulations for the prize.

Carol Guzy: Initially the camera is a bit of a shield and we're set to bear witness to this unspeakable tragedy. Of course you empathize- although it's hard to even imagine being trapped in the rubble - it's hard to wrap your mind around the magnitude of it. When I'm photographing, I think - like any rescue worker who deals with tragedy - you have to have some protective barrier around your heart so you can do your job. You tend to have a delayed reaction to things. I feel things more deeply after I put the camera down.

Nikki Kahn: I agree. Looking at the images after is more heart-wrenching.

I know photographs tell a thousand words, yet I am wondering what words you think when you see your photographs of Haiti?

Ricky Carioti: I see desperation.

 

Nikki Kahn: I see the enduring spirit of the Haitian people.

 

Carol Guzy: In most devestating situations like that, you see glimmers of hope across a landscape of hell. I think these kind of tragedies bring out the best and worst in people, and it's humbling to see everyday heroes emerge out of the rubble.

What was the most difficult part of being in Haiti at this time?

Nikki Kahn: I think getting the images back to show because I don't think the rest of the world was aware of the scope of the disaster. And getting the images back on deadline when equipment was failing was challenging. The little things you take for granted are not there when you're working in that disastrous situation. There's aftershocks, but it's nothing compared to what the Haitian people endured. And that was why it was so much more important to make sure you got it right and made sure you got those images back. It was a stunning disaster, on so many levels.

 

Carol Guzy: For me, on a personal level, it ripped my heart out because I had been to Haiti so many times during my career. Going through the city and seeing the buildings shattered that I spent so much time in - the cathedral, the palace. And then realizing there were bodies buried beneath that rubble. And for a long time we were really concerned about the kids we had known forever that are like our extended family, and the concern that they had perished as well. Fortunately, they hadn't.

Congratulations, the photos are amazing and devastating. Are there images you wish you could forget? Scenes you wish you hadn't witnessed?

Carol Guzy: Certainly, the little school girl, and there were a lot of kids in that school who were crushed to death. They were going about their day - and in an instant, their life was over. Something about those uniforms was haunting. They were sitting at their desks, doing schoolwork when their world crashed in on them. And it's always seeing kids - that hurts the most because they didn't have the chance to live their lives.

 

Nikki Kahn: I think for me, there were so many images that I never took pictures of, but they're images I'll never forget.

 

Ricky Carioti: For me, it was a man digging through rubble with his bare hands, seven months later, still looking for his aunts and niece, knowing that they were in that pile of rubble and it was just a matter of getting to them - and this was seven months later.

Carol, congrats on another Pulitzer. Does it feel different this time? Do all the photographers collaborate when covering the same story, or does everyone regroup after-the-fact?

Carol Guzy: Well, the difference with this, I suppose, is the longevity of my relationship with Haiti. Certainly it's very poignant for me. But on a personal level, sharing a prize with Michel DuCille 25 years ago, and now sharing one with his wife - what are the odds? It was very difficult to collaborate and communicate because electricity was down - cell phones didn't work.

 

Nikki Kahn: We charged our camera batteries in an old van and used old batteries. But everyone else was going through the same thing. We were kindred spirits.

Did you three work together in Haiti, or is your grouping a result of WaPo picking the best photos from all its photogs who covered Haiti?

Ricky Carioti: I would say that Carol and Nikki covered the initial earthquake - they were sent to cover it. I went seven months later to cover the aftermath. That's what I was sent to do. I would also say that we were the only three that went to Haiti.

 

Nikki Kahn: Carol is crazy. She never stops. And she was constantly working, so we worked in different parts of the city and caught glimpses of each other and really didn't collaborate. We were out doing our jobs, taking pictures. I think we spent a year covering the story. Carol didn't want to come home. I did multiple trips. Carol had an extended stay the day after the earthquake and came home a month later.

What role did your editors play during the earthquake and in subsequent months? How did they support you and push you?

Nikki Kahn: It was incredible that they stuck with the story and they supported us. Personally, I'm glad they recognized the importance of the story in a time of the failing newspaper business and they sent some of us back to cover it.

 

Carol Guzy: I think many times news organizations, whether it's for lack of resources or something else, cover the headlines and don't follow up, even though the story continues for the people living there - they can't leave. I think it's critical that they do these follow-up stories to realize that there is still suffering and the need is dire. If you're that person suffering you don't want to be forgotten.

 

Nikki Kahn: I think it's important that the Post gave us that opportunity to keep going back to cover it. I was lucky enough to go back for the one year anniversary.

Nikki, you're married to Michel DuCille? You two are like the Christo and Jeanne-Claude of photojournalism!

Nikki: The good news is that I don't answer to him at home or at work.

 

Michel: We don't know if we're the only couple who's ever won a Pulitzer - we haven't done the research yet. We'll let you know.

But isn't there a certain comfort in knowing you're able to tell visual stories for those who can't, to those who need to know?

Michel DuCille: It's more than a comfort, I think it's a responsibility. I know to me and Carol that it's a calling. We are handed this huge responsibility to let the world know it's happening.

 

Nikki Kahn: I'd say that's true for all of us and we take it very seriously.

 

Michel: To me, it's more important to tell those stories than to win Pulitzer Prizes. Honestly.

 

Carol Guzy: We're just the link, we're not the important ones. Though it's nice our work is recognized, it's never the ultimate goal. The important ones are the people in the stories, the people who know what's happening in that world.

 

Ricky Carioti: And I agree.

Were there instances you hesitated in taking pictures, or didn't take pictures, even though the images were strong? If so, what were they?

Carol: The morgue, there was literally a sea of bodies. I did take pictures, but at a certain point I stopped because I realized it was too horrific to be published. It was just hard to look at it.

 

Nikki: The sea of bodies at the morgue was heart-wrenching.

 

Ricky: I photographed everything I came across and didn't stop. But it wasn't as horrific as what Nikki and Carol saw.

 

Nikki: I think a year later I still drive by certain streets and still remember the bodies like it was yesterday.

 

Carol: And the smell. You can't photograph the smell, but it still sticks with you. I can still smell it right now.

 

Nikki: And we could not have done this without our interpreters. I had an amazing interpreter, who showed up everyday to get us to places.

 

Carol: And they're the unsong heroes in this story. The interpreters, the drivers - who risked their lives to get us to point A to point B. And they never named, but we couldn't do it without them.

Which photo stories/photogs do you think also deserve attention from the past year? Who's out there doing exceptional work, in addition to WaPo?

Carol: Daniel Morel, who is Haitian and he's covered his own country for his entire life. He was there when the earthquake happened and actually photographed as the ground was shaking. He deserves everyone's respect. So many photographers did amazingly powerful images, not only from the earthquake but for other stories. It's hard, because I think you have to take these honors with a grain of salt because there are so many photographers out there who are doing great work. And that's the honor  - that you're able to tell these stores.

 

Nikki: We had an amazing team of writers who worked alongside us, who were really supportive. Shawn Thew, who works for the EPA, and Damen Winter from the New York Times, and Gerald Herbert from the AP, and Vladimir Laguerre, who is a Haitian photographer, and Carolyn Cole. We could just go on and on.

Carol, you and Jan Grarup have taken similar images of a couple walking through the ruins of Haiti. How often are photogs shooting the same area, especially during a big story?

Carol: Very often. I think a lot of times, especially for certain stories, photographers travel together for saftey reasons  and they also invariably cross paths. But you could have 10 photographers shooting together in the same spot, but capturing different images.

Congratulations Ricky for your first Pulitzer prize, your family is extremely proud.

Ricky: You haven't mistaken this Ricky for someone else, have you?

NO, we have not mistaken you for someone else. DAD

Ricky: Thanks Dad!

Nikki: For me, its a privilege to share this with Carol and Ricky.

 

Ricky: I'm with Nikki on that. It's a privilege and an honor to sit here with these girls and their Pulitzers.

 

Nikki: And it's such an amazing opportunity to work for a newspaper that gives us the support to cover these stories. I really, truly mean that. What a gift.

 

Ricky: I'm thankful we work for a newspaper that allows us to have an opportunity like this.

 

Carol: I do hope this shines a light so people keep Haiti in their thoughts and hearts. And I send my love to Denis, Crystella, Virginie and James and their families. They're my family too.

In This Chat
Carol Guzy
Carol Guzy has been honored twice with the Pulitzer Prize, one for Spot News Photography and another for Feature Photography.

Guzy has also been named Photographer of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association three times and eight times by the White House News Photographers Association.
Ricky Carioti
Ricky Carioti joined The Washington Post as a full-time photographer in 2005 after having been a freelancer and part-time staff photographer for The Post since 1998. He has won awards from the White House News Photographers Association and this is his first Pulitzer award.
Nikki Kahn
Nikki Kahn joined The Post staff in January 2005 after her previous job as a photographer and editor at Knight-Ridder Tribune Photo Service. She has also worked as a staff photographer at the Indianapolis Star. This is her first Pulitzer.
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