There are some photos you take and forget about. There are others you take and remember in such detail that you can almost hear the click of the shutter again when you look at them. This is one of the later. The 1000 Words series tells the stories behind some of my favorite photos. I hope you enjoy!
I’m still getting used to saying I “made” a photograph as opposed to “took” it, but for the sake of this post I’m going to try it out. I made this photograph in a room full of award winning photos while watching a video about some of the most amazing photographers since the invention of the camera. So, no pressure there.
At the time, I was seated on a bench on the 1st floor of the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The walls surrounding this room are some of the most difficult gallery space to be a part of in the world. People built careers, became icons of a generation, and died for those photos. Every print hanging there has won a Pulitzer Prize.
Alicia and I had spent all of the previous day and most of this one exploring the museum. It is a truly incredible place and worthy of the 2-day pass each ticket gets you. If you’re in D.C. and want to see something other than the monuments, I highly recommend visiting the Newseum.
While much of the building is dedicated to the history of journalism, from the first print papers to the headlines of publications today, there are also dozens of movies, interactive areas, and things you wouldn’t find anywhere else, like the Unabomber’s cabin. They actually have a sign that says “Please do not touch the Unabomber’s cabin.” You’d be hard pressed to find something like that anywhere else.
Many of the exhibits in Newseum are also very emotional. They have the largest piece of the Berlin Wall outside of Germany, a beautiful but terribly sad memorial to journalists who were killed on assignment, and a section on the 9/11 attacks that left a room full of adults in tears while we were there. Our visit also closely followed the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris and the entrance to the gift shop was filled with a number of items adorned with the “Je Suis Charlie” rallying cry.
After exploring the rest of the museum, we walked over to the Pulitzer Prize gallery, which we had purposely been saving for last. I’d heard about this gallery and was beyond excited to see it.
Like the rest of the Newseum, the gallery does a fantastic job of telling a story. I’d seen most of the images on the walls countless times but knew little of the stories behind them. In addition to the print gallery, the full set of Pulitzer Prize winning photos is available to view digitally. The place really fills you with a sense of awe.
In the center of the room, there are a set of benches surrounded by glass walls and a TV showing a documentary about the photos. We’d been walking around for most of the day and took a seat on one of the benches to watch the film.
While we were sitting there, I noticed this lone Cub Scout slowly making his way around the gallery. Something about the contrast between his small stature, his blue uniform, a symbol of American youth, and the black and white photos of napalm scorched villages and starving children really struck a chord with me. I was also in Cub Scouts, and later Boy Scouts, so it felt a bit like looking at a younger version of myself.
I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking when he saw these images. I wondered if he knew what they meant or if he’d ever seen them before. I wondered what I would have thought at his age. I wonder if he’ll remember that visit when he’s older and what kind of impact these pictures, taken decades before he was alive, would have on him.
With my camera propped against my knee, I waited until he walked in front of an opening in the glass and quickly made a few images.
10 months later, I’m finally getting around to writing this post but I still vividly remember making this image. Looking at it now, it’s exactly the way I remember. There he is, standing between the execution of a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon and an image from the shooting at Kent State. Hands clasped behind his back, looking up at a distraught 14 year old Mary Vecchio. She can’t have been much older than he is in this photo.
This image is no where near the level of the Pulitzer winners hanging on the wall, but it’s one of my favorites and I hope it was interesting to hear the story behind it.