Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photographer Michael Coers Dies at 62

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By: E&P Staff

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Michael Coers died of natural causes Sunday at his home in Louisville, Ky., The Courier-Journal reported. He was 62.

After graduating from Eastern Kentucky University, Coers went to work for the Louisville Times and Courier-Journal. His work also appeared on the cover of the Courier-Journal’s Scene Saturday magazine.

Coers’ photo of a black student and white student shaking hands at a formerly all-white elementary school on the first day of court-ordered busing in Louisville in 1975 “was among those that earned the Courier-Journal and Louisville Times photo department the Pulitzer in 1976,” the paper reported.

Ten years later, Coers won the National Press Photographers Association’s Humanitarian Award. While assigned to cover an emergency medical crew, the photographer resuscitated a 77-year-old woman who had collapsed during a heat wave.

Coers also was credited with inventing the Enlarger Mate, which helped in burning prints in the darkroom.

Besides covering the news, which included several mining disasters — among them an explosion that killed 38 miners in 1970 — Coers earned a reputation for creative feature work, from shooting from the cockpit of a Navy Blue Angels jet to using mirrors to perfectly photograph a bullet leaving a gun barrel and heading straight for the reader. The Courier-Journal quoted former features editor Greg Johnson calling Coers “an editor’s dream. No matter what sort of hare-brained idea you’d have for a cover, Coers could actually pull it off.”

The paper reported that Coers contracted Lyme disease before it was widely recognized. Undiagnosed for years, its complications affected his vision and stamina, and eventually led to his retirement in 1989.

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