Saturday, July 27, 2013

Pulitzer and World Press Photographs of the Year - 1963

Continuing the list of the winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Photography, from inception in 1942; and the World Press Photograph of the Year, from inception in 1955.


Year:  1963

Award:  Pulitzer Prize for Photography

Photographer:  Hector Rondon Lovera

Photograph:  Aid from the Padre


The 1963 Pulitzer Prize for Photography was awarded to Hector Lovera for his photograph of a priest holding a wounded soldier in the 1962 insurrection in Venezuela. This photograph was also awarded the 1962 World Press Photograph of the Year and was the subject of the Bytes on the 1962 awards.


Year:  1963

Award:  World Press Photograph of the Year

Photographer:  Malcolm Browne

Photograph:  Suppression of Buddhists in Vietnam


Malcolm Browne, who died in 2012 aged 81, was for many years a journalist with the New York Times and was awarded a Pulitzer for his writings on the early part of the Vietnam War. Nonetheless he is today best remembered for his photograph of a Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc, who set himself on fire in protest against the South Vietnamese government’s persecution of Buddhists.

In a 2011 interview by Time, Browne commented that:

"Along about springtime (1963), the monks began to hint that they were going to pull off something spectacular by way of protest ... 
The monks were telephoning the foreign correspondents in Saigon to warn them that something big was going to happen. Most of the correspondents were kind of bored with that threat after a while and tended to ignore it. I felt that they were certainly going to do something, that they were not just bluffing, so it came to be that I was really the only Western correspondent that covered the fatal day."

Browne’s photograph was distributed worldwide, focusing attention on the government of Ngo Dinh Diem and its repressive policies. President Kennedy was moved to comment that “No news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one."

Duc’s sacrifice was recorded on film, as well as being the subject of Browne’s photograph. Amazingly, he remained still throughout his horrifyingly painful ordeal. See it at the following link but be warned, the image is horrific:

According to journalist David Halbertstam:

I was to see that sight again, but once was enough. Flames were coming from a human being; his body was slowly withering and shriveling up, his head blackening and charring. In the air was the smell of burning human flesh; human beings burn surprisingly quickly. Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think ... As he burned he never moved a muscle, never uttered a sound, his outward composure in sharp contrast to the wailing people around him

The head of the Secret Police in South Vietnam  was  Ngo Dinh Nhu, the brother of Diem.  Madam Nhu, the wife of the head of the Secret Police, commented that the Buddhist monks had done little to assist their cause beyond having “barbequed” one of their own and hypocritically having used “imported petrol": 

Although Diem announced reforms to pacify the Buddhists, the reforms were not implemented. Instead, with Buddhist protests continuing, government troops raided Buddhist pagodas, killing monks and damaging shrines. Quang Duc’s preserved heart was stolen. Several more monks immolated themselves in protest. Diem was eventually toppled by an army coup with Diem being assassinated.

The Time interview referred to above can be read at:

That interview, an extract of which is reproduced below, strikes me as justifying the frequent impression that journalists and photographers are unfeeling and uncaring, concerned only about the story or photograph:

Paul Witty: Tell me about that morning. You certainly weren’t expecting something so dramatic but you felt drawn because of a call the night before? 
Malcolm Browne: I had some hint that it would be something spectacular, because I knew these monks were not bluffing. They were perfectly serious about doing something pretty violent. In another civilization it might have taken the form of a bomb or something like that. 
The monks were very much aware of the result that an immolation was likely to have. So by the time I got to the pagoda where all of this was being organized, it was already underway—the monks and nuns were chanting a type of chant that’s very common at funerals and so forth. At a signal from the leader, they all started out into the street and headed toward the central part of Saigon on foot. 
When we reached there, the monks quickly formed a circle around a precise intersection of two main streets in Saigon. A car drove up. Two young monks got out of it. An older monk, leaning a little bit on one of the younger ones, also got out. He headed right for the center of the intersection. The two young monks brought up a plastic jerry can, which proved to be gasoline. As soon as he seated himself, they poured the liquid all over him. He got out a matchbook, lighted it, and dropped it in his lap and was immediately engulfed in flames. Everybody that witnessed this was horrified. It was every bit as bad as I could have expected. 
I don’t know exactly when he died because you couldn’t tell from his features or voice or anything. He never yelled out in pain. His face seemed to remain fairly calm until it was so blackened by the flames that you couldn’t make it out anymore. Finally the monks decided he was dead and they brought up a coffin, an improvised wooden coffin. 
Paul Whitty:  And you were the only photographer there? 
Matthew Browne: As far as I could tell, yes. It turns out that there were some Vietnamese that took some pictures but they didn’t go out—they’re not on the wires or anything like that. 
Paul Whitty:  What were you thinking while you were looking through the camera? 
Matthew Browne: I was thinking only about the fact it was a self-illuminated subject that required an exposure of about, oh say, f10 or whatever it was, I don’t really remember. I was using a cheap Japanese camera, by the name of Petri. I was very familiar with it, but I wanted to make sure that I not only got the settings right on the camera each time and focused it properly, but that also I was reloading fast enough to keep up with action. I took about ten rolls of film because I was shooting constantly. 
Paul Whitty: How did you feel? 

Matthew Browne: The main thing on my mind was getting the pictures out. I realized this is something of unusual importance and that I’d have to get them to the AP in one of its far flung octopus tentacles as soon as possible. And I also knew this was a very difficult thing to do in Saigon on short notice.
To further emphasise what I said about photographers and journos, have a look at the pic below, no further comment needed . . .

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