Speaking more than a thousand words

The Pulitzer Prize photographs in the Newseum feature decades of winning photography.

The Pulitzer Prize photographs in the Newseum feature decades of winning photography.
Photo by Abigail Jaffe

When a news story breaks 5,000 miles across the world, a journalist is there to cover it. Armed with questions, a smartphone and a quick tongue, journalists ensure the news reaches the public within several minutes or hours.

But long after the reader skims the text, the pictures remain, the powerful ones forever embedded and seared into the memory.

The best and most stunning photos we remember are awarded with the Pulitzer Prize, the most prestigious prize in photography. Pictures of humans in their most vulnerable states, featuring raw and extreme emotion, are what capture our attention and move us to action.

The Newseum’s Pulitzer Prize exhibit enables the range of human emotion to its fullest. Viewing the sheer number of photos in the gallery, which capture the height of emotion, is an awe-inspiring experience.

Spurring laughs and tears

As a public relations student, I’ve learned the value of social media and aesthetics, as well as the potential of appeal to emotion. There is nothing as powerful as photos of people at the height of euphoria, depression, anxiety or worry to accompany blocks of text.

After my visit to the Newseum this Sunday, what I’ve been taught in the classroom rang true in the real world. As I watched laughing groups of people enter the exhibit, they quieted as they began to absorb the photos. Some brushed away tears and others sighed, and I realized the power of a fellow human’s facial expression forever seared in ink.

Eddie Adams' words are the introduction visitors receive to the Pulitzer Prize photography exhibit.

Eddie Adams’ words are the introduction visitors receive to the Newseum’s Pulitzer Prize photography exhibit.
Photo by Abigail Jaffe

Approaching a competitive workforce of professionals safeguarding reputations that we call public relations, I want to incorporate powerful photography into what I do. Crisis management should be a prime recipient of this trend, because people want to witness far-flung events through their computer screens or morning newspapers. Photos of people’s homes singed by wildfires or buried under banks of snow speak volumes and quiet dissent.

In a world where human interaction is rapidly declining, the plight of strangers still holds an eerie sway over us and contains the potential to spur laughs, tears and calls to action.


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