Photojournalists Balilty, Byer, Loomis Win Pulitzer Prizes

By Donald R. Winslow

© 2007 News Photographer magazine

NEW YORK, NY – The 2007 Pulitzer Prizes for photography were awarded today to Oded Balilty of the Associated Press for Breaking News Photography for "his powerful photograph of a lone Jewish woman defying Israeli security forces," and to Renee C. Byer of The Sacramento Bee for Feature Photography for "A Mother's Journey," an essay the judges called an "intimate portrayal of a single mother and her young son as he loses his battle with cancer."

In addition, photojournalist Rick Loomis of the Los Angeles Times was a member of the team who won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for their five-part series "Altered Oceans," which last summer examined the conditions of the world's oceans.

Balilty's "single image" Pulitzer is the first time a lone photograph, rather than an extensive essay, has won a photography Pulitzer since 2001 when Alan Diaz won for an Associated Press picture of Elian Gonzalez being removed from a Miami home by armed federal agents.

Balilty was a photograher for the Israeli Defense Force's magazine during his time of military service in the IDF. His Associated Press posting is in Jerusalem, where he was born in 1979. He started working for AP in 2002 during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and his photographs from that clash were part of a group exhibit of AP photographs at Visa pour L'image in Perpignan, France, in 2004.

Associated Press executive editor Kathleen Carroll called Balilty's winning photograph "a stunning image that captures the chaos and emotion of that evacuation."

Finalists in the Breaking News category were Michael Bryant of The Philadelphia Inquirer for his coverage of the injured race horse Barbaro, and the staff of the Associated Press for their photographic coverage of the clash last summer between Israel and Hezbollah.

Byer, 48, documented the final days of Derek Madsen, 11, as he fought cancer as his mother, Cyndie French, fought to save him. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize today, "A Mother's Journey" also won second place for Byer, director of photography Mark Morris, and deputy director Sue Morrow, in NPPA's Best Of Photojournalism 2007 picture editing contest in the newspaper documentary photojournalism category for multiple pages. The essay also won the World Understanding Award in the Pictures of the Year International contest this year. Byer has been a photojournalist for more than two decades and joined The Bee in 2003 after working for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Finalists in Feature Photography were Mary F. Calvert of The Washington Times, this year's NPPA Best Of Photojournalism Photojournalist of the Year for Small Markets, for her essay on sub-Sahara African women afflicted with fistulas, and Gary Coronado of The Palm Beach Post for his coverage of Central Americans who illegally enter the States on Mexican freight trains.



Loomis told News Photographer magazine today, "It's a great feeling to be recognized for work on such a globally important topic. I hope that this serves to help draw attention to the ocean and increase our efforts to protect this vital resource."

He was NPPA's Newspaper Photographer of the Year in 2003, and the California Press Photographers Association's Photographer of the Year in 2003 and 2004. Loomis has been with the Times since 1994 when he graduated with a photojournalism degree from Western Kentucky University. During college he interned at The Fort Wayne (Indiana) News Sentinel, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Seattle Times, and Syracuse newspapers. During high school he was a lab technician and photographer for The Palm Beach Post in his Florida hometown.

Loomis started with the Times in their Orange County edition, and after 9/11 moved into the paper's national and international coverage. He's covered war during four tours in Iraq and three tours in Afghanistan, as well as conflict in Israel and Haiti. Four times he's been a photography coach at The Mountain Photographic Workshops in Kentucky.

Published in the newspaper and online in August 2006, "Altered Oceans" was written by Kenneth R. Weiss and Usha Lee McFarling with photography and video by Loomis. The project was edited by Gail Fisher before she left the Times for her new role at National Geographic. McFarling has worked for the newspaper's science desk since 2000 covering earth sciences and the space program, and Weiss has been at the Times since 1990, for the last five years writing about the California coast and oceans.


Kenny Irby, the Visual Journalism Group Leader for The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, chaired the jury for the Pulitzer photography categories this year. The jurors were Ronnie Agnew, executive editor of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, MS; Hai Do, director of photography for The Philadelphia Inquirer; Liza Gross, the managing editor for presentation for The Miami Herald; and Karin Winner, the vice president and editor of The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The photography winners remained a secret right up until the time they were announced by Columbia, causing a great deal of conversation in the photojournalism community who wondered why the finalists weren’t leaked to the press as they traditionally are each year. “It was a matter of integrity,” Irby told News Photographer magazine today. “It doesn’t bode well for our industry when journalists don’t maintain confidentiality. We [the jurors] committed to one another and we stuck to that.”

Pages from Byer's "A Mother's Journey"


In December last year, the Pulitzer Prize Board amended its records and awarded the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography to Jahangir Razmi, an Iranian photographer whose picture of a 1979 firing squad in Iran killing Iranian civilian prisoners was published around the world anonymously because Razmi feared for his life. Razmi's identity was revealed, with his consent, in a Wall Street Journal story by Joshua Prager last December, and the photographer's story was published along with other pictures he made that day at the execution. Razmi has been invited to receive his 1980 Pulitzer Prize this coming May in New York when the winners of today's Pulitzers are honored during a luncheon at Columbia University.


The Pulitzer Prizes in journalism were established in 1917 in memory of newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, the first to call for the training of journalists at the university level in college programs, who provided for the birth and funding of the awards in his 1904 will as an incentive to journalistic excellence. In 1878 and only in his late twenties, Pulitzer was the owner and publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He died in 1911 aboard his yacht, and the Columbia School of Journalism was founded in 1912. Five years later the first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded in four categories: journalism, letters and drama, education, and four traveling scholarships.

More than 2,000 entries are submitted in the contest each year. There are 120 judges serving on 20 juries who are asked to make three nominations in each of the Pulitzer Prize’s 21 categories, two of which are for photography. A single jury judges both Breaking News photography and Feature photography entries. To be eligible for a Pulitzer, material must have been published in a newspaper in the United States during the previous year.

The complete list of 2007 Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists is here.