Photographs present a sneak-peek into history for forthcoming generations. You can call them provocative glimpses into the lives of people and eras that have gone by. The fact that many of us cannot ignore is that every photo has a story to tell. All we need to do is dig deep and explore it because the background stories of some pathbreaking photographs can reveal a lot than we can realize by mere looking at the photo. There’s a reason that some photographs have won Pulitzer Prizes. Some photographs garnered international attention and acclaim for their ability to highlight critical historical events, encapsulate visceral reactions, and make us notice unrealized truths.
Every year, we honor Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs mainly due to their intensity, raw emotion, and incredible capacity to provide us an insight into the society of the era they represent. Their backstories add multiple layers of insight into the moment that inspired that image. We guarantee that this review of a few of such remarkable, prize-winning photographs will transport you to that particular time when that event occurred and send you on an emotional roller coaster from grief and remorse to jubilation and inspiration.
1980: ‘Firing Squad in Iran’
Firing Squad in Iran was initially credited to an unidentified photographer. It was the first and only picture that received a Pulitzer Prize without having the name of its contributor. The photograph shows 11 Kurdish males getting shot at an airfield in Sanandaj, Kurdistan, as they were considered “counter-revolutionaries.” All the men underwent a speedy trial and were later executed by Ayatollah Khomeini’s supporters. In 1979, the Shah of Iran was overthrown by Khomeini, and he installed a theocracy after coming to power. Khomeini was an anti-western and traditionalist leader. He converted Iran into a repressive and repressive regime. International media was forbidden from staying in Iran. When this photo was published in Ettela’at, an Iranian newspaper, the name of its photographer was deliberately not announced for safety purposes. Government authorities forced the newspaper to provide the name of the photographer, but the publication refused. When the United Press International distributed this photo, it also didn’t reveal the contributor’s name. While awarding this photo the Pulitzer Prize, the jurors said it was “probably the single most important photograph of 1979. It is not only a picture of enduring and memorable quality but also has the power to shape the viewer’s feeling about a compelling international crisis.”
However, decades later, in 2016, the name of the person who took this award-winning photo was revealed, with his consent. It was Jahangir Ramzi from Tehran. At the time this photo was captured, Ramzi worked for Ettela’at. Wall Street Journal’s Josh Prager ultimately tracked him down. All these years, Ramzi had kept the evidence of his associated with the photo secretly hidden in his home as he feared reprisal. After his name came to light, the Pulitzer Prize Board held a ceremony to honor his contribution. While receiving the award for spot photography, Ramzi met the sister of one of the executed males. Recalling this emotional meeting, the sister said that she couldn’t control herself and met the person who was the last individual to see her brother moments before his death.
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