The stars and stripes are used as a weapon in "The Soiling of Old Glory" from 1977.
The stars and stripes are used as a weapon in "The Soiling of Old Glory" from 1977.
Stanely Forman

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Capture the Moment: The Pulitzer Prize Photographs within the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza is a great display of memorable images and, by its very nature, it would have to be. It represents the best in photojournalism from 1941, the year of the first award, to the present. If the exhibit shows only one thing, it's that putting themselves in harm's way may be an unwritten part of the job description for photojournalists. To capture these moments, the photographers willingly place themselves in the path of bullets or blows from fists or in the midst of angry mobs. It seems that part of the art is getting to those things they are not supposed to be documenting, what was never meant to be seen or otherwise just being in the right place at the right time.

Most of the photographs--save for a few exceptions--seem to have a common theme. Contradiction is one, as in a photo of the pole of an American flag being used as a blunt weapon, but the most common theme is times of anguish. So many of the photographs capture the human face in varying degrees of pain, anger and grief--occasionally in midscream, as in the famous photograph of the student crying over the body of a shot protester at Kent State University. War and its aftermath is another common subject, and torture, death and executions also make many appearances. Several photographs document the instant of a bullet's impact on the human body or, as one observer put it, "the numbing moment between life and death." Crises, both political and personal, are shown, whether it be a contemplative John F. Kennedy walking with Dwight D. Eisenhower, a humbled Bill Clinton frowning under the weight of scandal or the bent back of a starving child, whose photographer later committed suicide, haunted by the things he had seen. Humor, joy and triumph make brief appearances, but compared with pain, they are underrepresented. One has to wonder if this is truly the ratio of good to bad events that make up our world history, or are we merely drawn to them because of their ability to provoke or evoke. Either way, the exhibit is a fine document of the shared human history and experience.


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