Capture the Moment: The Pulitzer Prize Photographs

This past Saturday I went to the photo exhibit Capture the Moment: The Pulitzer Prize Photographs. The largest and most comprehensive exhibition of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs is currently on view at the Senator John Heinz History Center.

Two glasses of wine and one romantic comedy later and I still cannot get the images out of my head. The photographs hurt to look at. They are pain, raw, truth, stark images of history. The photos represented sustainable images for the hope of mankind to move forward. The photographs are not set out to be art but to preserve a moment for the viewer so they may transcend and absorb the images into their own being so photos like these may never have to be taken again.

The depth and span of the photography did include moments of compassion and beauty documenting grace and gratitude that we all may get to experience. However the overwhelming images were of death, war, and natural disaster.

What captured my view was how the crowd was taking in the experience. People gathered in bunches to view the work. It seemed to me that the collective understanding was needed to be able to take in all the emotions that the photos brought out.

At times these photographs made me want to cry. I teared up, the back of my mouth ached but I did not cry. I like myself less for not. I held in the pain. Is that the goal of the photojournalists? For the viewer to feel (at least practically) what the subject might have felt? The question I kept asking myself was: “how do you take these photos and live with yourself (and) how do you take these photos and stay alive to show them”?

At the end I felt that photojournalists must have a life dedicated to the services of others: to bring humanity into view with the rest of humanity. At the end also I thought that a photojournalist must forsake their dreams for nightmares so that the rest of us may sleep peacefully.