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).
Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography, 1982:
John H. White, Chicago Sun-Times, "for consistently excellent work on a variety of subjects."
John White (1945 - ) was born in Lexington, North Carolina. When he was aged 9. a teacher told him that he would grow up to work on a garbage truck because he was slow in math. At home, his father told him to grow up to be his best, to look for the best in others, and if he were to work on a garbage truck, fine—just be sure he's the driver. White has said that this was a turning point in his life.
White's father also played a pivotal role in his photography. At age 14, White's church burned down and his father asked him to take photos of the destruction and reconstruction. White now credits this first assignment with his focus on photo stories.
After working for the Chicago Daily News, White joined the staff of the Chicago Sun Times in 1978 and worked there until May 2013. White also teaches photojournalism at Columbia College Chicago, and formerly taught at Northwestern University.
White has said that he lives by three words: faith, focus, flight. "I'm faithful to my purpose, my mission, my assignment, my work, my dreams. I stay focused on what I'm doing and what's important. And I keep in flight—I spread my wings and do it.”
White was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Photojournalism in 1982 for his "consistently excellent work on a variety of subjects."
The jury determining the award commented:
“This jury is struck by Mr White’s ability to reproduce excellent photographs with great consistency. While the subject matter is commonplace, his execution is extraordinary. The body of his work reflects a blend of humor, warmth and compassion recorded with a creative eye and technical excellence. The jury concludes this is the first place entry.”
For more than 30 years, John White had been photographing Chicago. "I live in the city, I breathe the city, the city is everything. There's the lakefront, there are the parks, I can see as good a sunrise in the city as anywhere in the world. As a photographer for the Chicago Sun-Times, White covered his share of murders, political rallies, robberies and fires. But what he loved most were uplifting pictures: young dancers rehearsing at a new high school for the performing arts or children running joyfully through Cabrini Green, Chicago's most notorious housing project. "I don't really take pictures, I capture and share life. Moments come when pictures take themselves."
White’s prize-winning portfolio reflected a year in the life of the city and his work. "The purpose was to share slices of life from all walks of life; to be the psalm of the life of people. The photographs were from news situations, but not hard news. To me there is a wholeness that these images, these moments, give life. Most people get a steady diet of the hard news, the pain. I like to think these give the benefit of the joy and peace that life has also."
John White speaks with students and the public. Here he is holding an issue of the Chicago Sun-Times that features one of his award-winning photographs.
Chicago lakefront baptism
Muhammad Ali, 1978
Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography, 1982
Photographer: Ron Edmonds, Associated Press
Photograph: Reagan assassination attempt
About the news item:
In 1981 only 69 days into his presidency, President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley Jnr when Regan was leaving a speaking engagement in Washington. Three others were shot and wounded including White House Press Secretary James Brady, who was left paralysed by the gunshot wound. Brady died in 2014.
Hinckley's motivation for the attack was to impress actress Jodie Foster, over whom he had developed an obsession after seeing her in the film Taxi Driver.
John Hinckley, 1981 mugshot
Regan was shot in the chest and lower right arm and suffered a punctured lung. Prompt medical attention saved his life and allowed him to recover quickly.
Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity on charges of attempting to assassinate the President and remains confined to a psychiatric facility.
The following photograph shows the scene and events:
Some of Ron Edmonds photographs of the assassination attempt
Edmonds on taking the photographs:
"I heard the pops. I shot six frames with a camera that shoots six frames per second and there were only three frames where the president was actually in the picture. We really didn't know he'd been shot until the car pulled away that I thought, 'Gosh,' ... ".
Of Hinckley's six shots, the one bullet that didn't hit anything or anybody when over Edmonds' head and landed across the street.
Edmonds was on probation for Associated Press at the time that the photographs were taken.
Initially, Edmonds was convinced he had upset his employers because he had failed to get a picture of Hinckley. When Edmonds returned to the office, he was told to call the head of the AP, and he assumed the worst. On only the second day of his six-month probation as a new hire, he feared he would be let go. Instead he was told, “You nailed it, kid,” and “We’re lifting your probation — we’re going to keep you.”