Sunday, April 10, 2016

Continuing Pulitzer and World Press Photographs of the Year: World Press Photo 1981, plus some related history






Between 1942 and 1967 a Pulitzer Prize for Photography was awarded for photojournalism, that is, for photographs telling a news story. In 1968 that award was replaced by awards in two new categories:
  • the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography (photography in the nature of breaking news, as it has been called since 2000); and
  • the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography (human interest and matters associated with new items).
From 1955 World Press Photo has awarded prizes for the best photographs in 10 categories, with an overall award for the image that "... is not only the photojournalistic encapsulation of the year, but represents an issue, situation or event of great journalistic importance, and does so in a way that demonstrates an outstanding level of visual perception and creativity".
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Previous posts have looked at the Pulitzer awards for Feature and Spot photography for 1981, today's post looks at the 1981 World Press Award, plus some of the associated history for the event depicted.
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World Press Photograph of the Year, 1981 

Photographer: Manuel Pérez Barriopedro 



Photograph: 23-F coup attempt in Madrid 

Summary: 

Barriopedro’s photo is that of Coronel Antonio Tejero at the Spanish parliament during the coup-d’état in 1981 Spain. Known as the 23-F coup because it began on 23 February 1981 (and concluded the next day) 

On 23rd February, photographer Manuel Perez Barriopedro was covering a tedious afternoon inside the parliament. Halfway through the proceedings, Guardia Civil burst into the chamber. Barriopedro took eleven frames, before removing his film to hide it from approaching Guardia Civil. Around 10 pm, when the journalists were released, Barriopedro smuggled the film out in his shoe. After midnight, when the first editions of the Spanish press appeared, the photo was across all the front pages; a few hours later, it was on the world’s front pages too. 



History and background: 

In 1931 Spain’s monarchy was removed and the country became a republic, known as the Second Spanish Republic (the First Spanish Republic being the short-lived political regime that existed in Spain between the parliamentary proclamation on 11 February 1873 and 29 December 1874) The leftist Popular Front gained control in the 1936 general elections, leading to opposition by the conservatives supported by the military and ultimately resulting in a civil war. On the one side were the Nationalists, opposed to the Republicans and receiving aid from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. The Republicans received aid from the Soviet Union, as well as from International Brigades, composed of volunteers from Europe and the United States. 

The war was an outcome of a polarization of Spanish life and politics that had developed over previous decades. On one side, the Nationalist, were most Roman Catholics, important elements of the military, most landowners, and many businessmen. On the other side, the Republican, were urban workers, most agricultural labourers, and many of the educated middle class. Politically, their differences often found extreme and vehement expression in parties such as the Fascist-oriented Falange and the militant anarchists. Between these extremes were other groups covering the political spectrum from monarchism and conservatism through liberalism to socialism, including a small communist movement. 

The Spanish Civil War concluded in 1939 with the Nationalists successful. Nationalist forces put the figure killed in the war at 1,000,000, including not only those killed in battle but also the victims of bombardment, execution, and assassination. More recent estimates have been closer to 500,000 or less. This does not include all those who died from malnutrition, starvation, and war-engendered disease. 

From 1936 until his death in 1975, General Franco was the head of a military dictatorship that ruled Spain. 

In 1969, he designated Prince Juan Carlos, grandson of Spain's former king, Alfonso XIII, as his official successor. For the next six years, Prince Juan Carlos initially remained in the background during public appearances and seemed ready to follow in Franco's footsteps. Once in power as King of Spain, however, he facilitated the development of a constitutional monarchy. 

The path to a constitutional monarchy was not without its problems. 

The extreme right and a major part of the Spanish military remained opposed, the economic situation was poor (20% unemployment and 16% inflation in 1981) and violence by Basque separatists created ongoing tensions. 

In 1981, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Antonio Tejero, 200 Guardia Civil armed with submachine guns, interrupted the Congress of Deputies of the Spanish parliament. Several TV cameramen and technicians, recorded almost half an hour of the event, providing the world with an audiovisual record of the attempt (which would be transmitted several hours after the coup ended). From the rostrum, gun in hand, Tejero ordered everyone to be silent and wait for a competent military authority, who never came. 

General Manuel Gutiérrez Mellado and Prime Minister Suárez ordered the insurgents to disarm. But members of the Guardia Civil assaulted them. Numerous rounds from a submachine gun were fired into the ceiling to subdue the chamber. 

The king appeared on television, in uniform, as the Captain General of the Armed Forces, the highest Spanish military rank, to declare himself against the insurgents and to defend the Spanish Constitution. 

Tejero resisted until the day following his seizure of parliament and was arrested outside the Congress building. The deputies and Prime Minister were freed that morning. 

The most immediate consequence was that the monarchy emerged powerfully reinforced in the eyes of the public and the political classes. Over the longer-term, the coup's failure marked the final occasion on which Spain's democratic future was seriously in danger at the hands of Francoist survivors. 

Tejero was sentenced to thirty years in prison. 

Dramatis Personae: 

General Franco

Franco and Hitler meet in Hendaye, October 1940. 

Franco ordered his officials to draw up a list of some 6,000 Jews living in Spain. The list was handed over to the Nazi architect of the so-called "final solution", the German SS chief Heinrich Himmler, as the two countries negotiated Spain's possible incorporation into the group of Axis powers that included Italy.

Franco and Hitler met on 23 October 1940 in Hendaye, near the Franco-Spanish border. Hitler had sent Franco troops and aircraft during the Spanish civil war and now wanted Franco to join the Axis powers.  Franco, however, had his own demands: Gibraltar and parts of French north Africa. Hitler is reported to have furiously declared that he "would rather have three or four teeth pulled out" than spend more time with the ungrateful Spaniard. Franco agreed to join the war at a future date but Spain eventually stayed out of the conflict.

Prince Juan Carlos of Bourbon (L) and Spanish head of state General Francisco Franco (R) in Madrid, 1971 

Spanish royal family (L-R): Princess Letizia, Crown Prince Felipe, Queen Sofia, King Juan Carlos and granddaughters Infanta Sofia and Infanta Leonor, in April 2014. 

In June 2014 King Juan Carlos abdicated after almost 40 years on the throne, his son, Prince Felipe, succeeding him. The once-popular Juan Carlos, 76, who helped smooth Spain's transition to democracy in the 1970s after the Francisco Franco dictatorship, has lost public support in recent years due to corruption scandals and gaffes. His daughter, Princess Cristina, and her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, are under investigation in a corruption case. 

He himself faced accusations of being out of touch when caught on a lavish privately-funded elephant-hunting trip while Spaniards at home were suffering deep and sustained economic recession and high unemployment. 

Another pic of the attempted coup, a defiant PM Suarez on the left, Tejero on the right.

Tejero was the last of the coup leaders to be released from jail on 2 December 1996, having then served 15 years in the military prison.

Note to self:
When leading a coup and taking over Parliament, don't wear a silly hat . . . 





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