E&P’s ‘Photos of the Year’ Winner Mines Pulitzer Gold

By: Shawn Moynihan

Apparently, it wasn’t enough for photographer Craig F. Walker of The Denver Post to take the grand prize in Editor & Publisher’s 10th annual Photos of the Year contest. On Monday, he added journalism’s highest honor — a Pulitzer Prize — for Feature Photography to his resume.

The Pulitzer-winning images were first showcased by the Denver Post last fall in ?Ian Fisher: American Soldier,? a multimedia package that detailed in words, photos and video the two-year journey of Ian Fisher from high school to Army boot camp, to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs to deployment in Iraq. Walker chronicled the process in photos collected into eight slide shows that take the viewer from intimate moments with friends and family to the sandy streets of Iraq.

Check out E&P?s gallery of Walker?s Pulitzer-winning photos, here.

Launched in print and online on Sept. 11, 2009, the Denver Post described the project this way at its Media Center: ?This is how an American soldier is made.? The story, written by Kevin Simpson with Michael Riley and Bruce Finley, was reported by Riley in Colorado and at Fort Benning, Ga., Finley at Fort Carson and in Iraq, and photographer Walker throughout. Walker also shot a considerable amount of video footage, both in the U.S. and in Iraq.

Tim Rasmussen, the Denver Post?s assistant managing editor/photography, had learned that Walker was a finalist, but didn?t tell him. Instead, on Monday he quietly led into the newsroom Ian Fisher, the subject of the series; the soldier?s parents, Eric and Terri; and Ian’s older brother, Andrew.

Director of Photography John Sunderland read the news of Walker?s win off the screen at 3 p.m., Walker said, ?and when I turned around from there, there was Terri.? Overwhelmed by emotion, ?I think I just sort of melted into my seat for a minute,? he added.

Rasmussen was hopeful that Walker would win — but as he put it, ?being deserving of this award and winning it are two different things.? He told E&P in November that Walker?s extensive written notes were ?absolutely essential? in providing details and fleshing out the multi-part series.

Fisher, who still has three more years to serve in the military, told E&P, ?It?s a great honor to be tied to this. It?s just amazing.?

Following Fisher from his decision to enlist, through basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia, all the way through his first deployment in Iraq was an experience Walker shared in every day. ?I feel like I experienced his ups and downs in my own way,? he said. The first few days in processing, during which Fisher started having second thoughts, was just the beginning of a long, bumpy road.

As time wore on and emotions ran high at times, Walker said, ?Tim would tell me, ‘That IS the story. Follow it.’ He had more faith in me than I did, throughout.?

?He stayed on the story for two?and-a-half years,? Rasmussen pointed out. ?When people didn?t believe in it, he did. He?s the most tenacious photographer I?ve ever met.?

Still, getting the U.S. military — and its fighting men and women — to bear everything to a newspaper team is no easy feat. ?It was a trust thing,? Walker said. ?It was up to me and the writers to gain the trust of the people we were going to be around.” During basic training, for example, ?we slept in the same building as the barracks.?

Despite all the accolades garnered by this series, Walker said, ?The best feeling on all this was to have [Ian?s family] see it and like it, and say, ?Yes, that?s our life.? That?s the best feeling in the world, when your subject says it?s right on.

?The most important thing about the story was Ian and his family and their honesty,? he added. ?They opened up their lives to me and trusted me, and all I did was shoot pictures.?

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