By Heidi Butler
April 19, 2011
On April 18, Carol Guzy '77 became one of a handful of individuals ever to win four Pulitzer Prizes. While the recognition for her work is affirming, the work itself has been full of heartache.
Guzy's career as a photojournalist has brought her face to face with tragedy and with danger as she has covered political uprisings, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, mudslides, genocide and civil war.
Her most recent Pulitzer came for photographs she and two of her colleagues from The Washington Post took in Haiti after an earthquake ripped the country and its people's lives apart in January of 2010.
The photos do not spare the viewer's emotions. Neither did the hurricane. "There is a danger in censoring reality," Guzy told students in a talk at Northampton in 2008.
But in the midst of horror, Guzy almost always finds evidence of hope. Glimpses of kindness and compassion are also part of her photographic tableau.
Guzy studied nursing at Northampton Community College (NCC) before discovering an interest in - and passion for - photography. Her former professor, Barbara Roper, says, "You can see the attributes of a good nurse-compassion, attention to detail, caring for humanity - in her [photography.]"
Given her sensitivity to pain, how does the former nursing major cope with the suffering around her? In a Q&A published in The Washington Post on the day the Pulitzers were announced, Guzy says, "Initially the camera is a bit of a shield....You have to have some protective barrier around your heart so you can do your job. You tend to have a delayed reaction to things. I feel things more deeply after I put the camera down."
Despite the emotional toll, Guzy keeps taking pictures. Her first Pulitzer came 25 years ago for photographs taken after the eruption of a volcano killed 23,000 people in Colombia and a mudslide destroyed the homes of many of the survivors.
Ten years later she earned a second Pulitzer, this one for coverage of political unrest in Haiti. In 2000 photographs of the lives of Kosovo refugees brought her top honors again.
During her career Guzy has been named Photographer of the Year three times by the National Press Photographers and eight times by the White House News Photographers Association, as well as being awarded the grand prize in international photography in a competition that honors Robert F. Kennedy's concerns for human rights, social justice and the power of individual action.
In the Q&A published in The Washington Post this April, Guzy and her fellow photojournalists acknowledge that while awards are nice, "It's hard to celebrate an award for something that's so very sad."
Guzy's hope as expressed in an essay published on the Poynter Institute website, is that "pictures inform, educate, enlighten, captivate, spur governments into action. They are historical documents," she says, "and
poignant reminders of our human frailties. Sometimes they touch our very souls."
Her work bears witness to her words.
Here are the photographs that won this year's Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography.
To read The Washington Post's Q&A with Guzy and her colleagues, click here.
An exhibition of Guzy's photographs showing the plight of animals after Hurricane Katrina drew large crowds at Northampton in 2008. You can read about her visit to campus in this article. It also includes a link to photographs featured in the exhibition.