In a review of blogosphere criticism of the AP's Pulitzer Prize-winning photos, Paul McLeary of the Columbia Journalism Review slams my earlier post on the subject:
Riding Sun, meanwhile, looks at the 20 winning photos and complains that they show only scenes of death and carnage, and that there are no photos showing "U.S. forces looking heroic; U.S. forces helping Iraqi civilians; Iraqis expressing support for U.S. forces or Iraqis expressing opposition to insurgents." We're all for cheery pictures, but pictures of people "expressing support" might not be the kind of dangerous, newsworthy, on-the-fly material that wins awards.McLeary's last link goes to AP photographer Joe Rosenthal's legendary, Pulitzer Prize-winning shot of U.S. Marines raising the flag atop Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima:
Nor is it a particularly good example of "on-the-fly material". A smaller U.S. flag had already been placed atop Suribachi beforehand, but Marine commanders ordered it switched for a larger one. This second flag-raising is the one caught on film. It wasn't "posed", but Joe knew it was going to happen and carefully positioned himself for the shot.
Yet despite its lack of violence, suffering, or spontaneity, Joe Rosenthal's masterpiece is widely acknowledged to be the single greatest photograph of World War II. Some have called it the greatest photograph of all time.
Would an AP photographer take such a photograph today? Would the Pulitzer Prize Board honor it with an award?
6,821 U.S. troops, including 5,931 Marines, lost their lives on Iwo Jima. Sixty years later, this triumphant photograph reminds us of both their terrible sacrifice and their ultimate victory.
Sixty years from now, what photographs will remind us of the American troops serving in Iraq?