Iraq War Loomed Large Among Pulitzer Photo Winners, Finalists

By: Jay DeFoore The Iraq War loomed large in the 2005 Pulitzer Prizes for photography.

The photo staff of The Associated Press, including five Iraqi photographers and six foreigners, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for breaking-news photography for its yearlong coverage of the combat in Iraq. Deanne Fitzmaurice, a 16-year veteran of the San Francisco Chronicle, won the Pulitzer for feature photography for her photo essay on an Oakland hospital's effort to treat a 9-year-old Iraqi boy severely maimed in an explosion.

AP director of photography Santiago Lyon singled out the Iraqi stringers for praise, saying they responded with bravery to a dangerous assignment.

"The situation [in Iraq] really deteriorated in March last year with the lynching of the civilian contractors in Fallujah, and we've come to rely more and more on our Iraqi staff," Lyon said. "They have to worry about both sides of the conflict, the insurgent side and the coalition side, so they're walking a fine line in the middle there."

AP's winning portfolio begins with Khalid Mohammed's harrowing photo of Iraqis celebrating as the charred bodies of the U.S. contractors hang from a bridge over the Euphrates River. Other photos depict soldiers on both sides of the battles in Najaf and Fallujah, as well as civilians caught in the middle of the conflict.

In addition to the Iraqi photographers, AP veterans John Moore, Anja Niedgringhaus, and Brennan Linsley contributed to the win. Jim MacMillan, who took a yearlong hiatus from The Philadelphia Daily News to cover the war for AP, contributed three photos to the winning portfolio.

Fitzmaurice won for "Operation Lion Heart," a multi-part essay that traces the treatment and difficult recovery process of 9-year-old Saleh Khalaf, who lost an eye and a hand in an explosion in Nasiriya in 2003. Rescued by an American surgeon and transported to a Bay Area hospital, Saleh gradually improved and came to symbolize hope and determination.

Fitzmaurice says the story began as a daily assignment, but after spending an hour with Saleh, she and reporter Meredith May knew the story needed to be explored in greater depth. Once she convinced director of photography Randy Greenwell of the story's importance, Fitzmaurice was able to spend much of the next year following its many twists and turns.

?He brought the war home to us,? Fitzmaurice says of Saleh. ?He's an absolute inspiration.?

When word reached Iraq that Saleh and his father had been airlifted to the United States, Fitzmaurice says insurgents in Iraq spread rumors that Raheem was a U.S. spy. Wanted posters were distributed around Raheem's hometown in Iraq, dooming the family's return. This led Saleh's mother to flee and Raheem to apply for asylum for himself and his son.

Fitzmaurice says the article helped reduce the asylum application process from years to a matter of weeks.

Fitzmaurice and May later traveled to Jordan to photograph Saleh's mother and her three other children as they left Iraq; the family's tearful reunion in San Francisco brought the story full circle.

?The whole time [Saleh] was in the hospital he just wanted his mother and he kept asking for her,? Fitzmaurice said. ?What a great way to tell the story of war -- through a little boy here in our community.?

Both runners-up in the feature category were nominated for photos relating to Iraq. Jim Gehrz of The Star Tribune in Minneapolis was nominated for an essay depicting the recovery of a female soldier injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Gehrz was chosen as Newspaper Photographer of the Year in the NPPA's contest last month.

Luis Sinco of the Los Angeles Times was also nominated in the feature category for his portrait of an exhausted U.S. Marine after a daylong battle in Iraq. The photo created a minor stir when it was published because it depicted a soldier smoking a cigarette, and The New York Post ran it on the cover with a headline "The Marlboro Man."

The Indian Ocean tsunami, the biggest natural disaster in modern history, did not curry as much favor with the judges as the Iraq-related stories. Reuters photographer Arko Datta was nominated as a finalist for his picture showing a woman grieving for a relative killed in the deadly wave. Datta's photo won World Press Photo of the Year. Reuters has never won a Pulitzer.

The Palm Beach Post staff was also chosen as a finalist in the breaking news category for its "imaginative and panoramic coverage of hurricanes that struck Florida."

CORRECTION, April 19: An earlier version of this story reported that Saleh Khalaf lost both hands. In fact, he lost only one hand.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here