Moments: The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photographs by Hal Buell

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I let myself browse the library a few weeks ago, and I ended up coming home with a huge coffee table book of photography, Moments: The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photographs by Hal Buell. I thought I’d browse through the award-winning photographs and then return it.

To my delight, the short summaries on the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs were fascinating as well as the photographs. In just a few days, I found myself engrossed in the stories of the photographs. I had to read it!

Because the Pulitzer Prize was awarded for general photography (1942-1967), spot news photography (1968-1999), feature photography (1968-current), and breaking news photography (2000-current), the book had a huge variety of types of photographs. What tied all the stories and photographs together was the randomness of the moments. And that is why I enjoyed Moments. It was a spattering of historical moments throughout the last seventy years.

Some moments were not historically significant. For example, the winning photograph  of 1954 by Mrs. Walter M. Schau, an amateur, was of a rescue from the cab of a truck that was dangling over a bridge, and the 1958 photograph was of a policeman bending over to talk to a young boy during a parade. Other photographs are memorable – such as the 1945 winner by Joe Rosenthal of the flag raising at Iwo Jima and the chilling photographs of the Oklahoma City bombing (1996 spot news photography winner) . The book as a whole showed the changing focus of the world, as the 1960s and 1970s winners tended toward chilling Vietnam photographs and the 1990s and more recent photographs tended toward those suffering in Africa. Some years featured political photographs (such as the Monica Lewinsky scandal) and others featured domestic issues, from the impact of school bussing (1976 feature winner) to children of drug abusers (1998 feature winner).

Moments, therefore, is at both times delightful and frightening to browse through. While it captures an amazing number of “moments” through history, some are horrendously shocking. For that reason, I’m glad it’s not a coffee table book I’ll keep around my home. At the same time, I found both the stories and the photographs fascinating.

Wikipedia lists the winning photographs/photographers, and the Pulitzer Prize site provides links to lists all recent winners; browse the lists at the general photography winners, feature photography winners, spot news photography winners, and breaking news photography winners. This years’ winners will be announced on April 20.

Partial or full portfolios of photography are on the website post 1995; however, if you are sincerely interested in the photographs and the stories behind them, you may want to find Moments. It’s quite worth a perusal. The copy of Moments I read only provided the winners through 1999; a new edition has been released with the subsequent decade.

Do you have a favorite Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph? What types of “moments” do you like to remember in photography?

Other Reviews:

If you have reviewed Moments on your site, leave a link in the comments and I’ll add it here.

Reviewed on April 14, 2009

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I will have to see if I can find a copy of this book. A museum around here had an exhibit of Pulitzer winning photographs not too long ago. I really wanted to go but was never able to make it.

  • I have an older edition–from 1986. After reading this post I took it out and looked through it. Then I went to the website and looked at a few– but they don’t really seem to have a easy way to view the photos, so I’ll see if I can find a more recent edition from the library.
    During all this looking, I kept thinking how sad it is that almost all of these photos are about tragic events; mostly war and violence.

  • I’m not sure if these photos won Pulitizer Prizes, but two photos that stick in my mind are the young woman kneeling by the body at Kent State and they young Vietnamese child running down the road naked after being struck by a bomb (maybe napalm?) of some type.

  • Jeanette, It’s a great collection so I hope you can find it!

    Valerie, yes, the website requires taht you look at each year via an awkward browser. It is nice, though, because it has the entire portfolios for the most recent years; the book only has three or four if it was a portfolio. Yes, I do think it’s pretty tragic, which is why I’m glad I don’t own it–I think it’s kind of depressing, but I’m glad I read it from the library!

    Kathy, yes, both of those are PUlitzer winners. The woman at Kent state was a 14-year-old run-away girl; when her parents saw the picture, they reunited with her. The young girl in the picture had been hit by napalm and tore off her clothes, yelling “hot hot!” in Vietnamese. She lived and emigrated to the USA. Both were happy endings, but so many of these stories weren’t!

    Eva, I thought so 🙂

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