The story behind the Pulitzer picture

April 7, 2008

Reuters Bangkok senior photographer Adrees Latif tells how he took the pictures which won him a Pulitzer Prize. The pictures were taken in Myanmar during the protests in September last year and include the photo of Japanese video journalist Kenji Nagai being shot.

“Tipped off by protests against soaring fuel prices, I landed in Yangon on 23 September, 2007, with some old clothes, a Canon 5D camera, two fixed lenses and a laptop.

For the next four days, I went to Shwedagon Pagoda, two-three kilometres from the centre of town and waited for the monks who had been gathering there daily at noon.

Since I was at the same pagoda every day, dozens of people, including monks, asked me who I was and what I was doing. As the ruling military regime is notoriously secretive, my replies were guarded.

Barefoot in maroon robes, and ringed by civilians, the monks chanted and prayed before starting their two-kilometre march to the Sule Pagoda in downtown Yangon. Each day their numbers grew, from hundreds to thousands.

By 27 September, the city had become packed with troops. Soldiers and government agents stood at street corners.

Finding the Shwedagon Pagoda sealed off, I went to the middle of town to find groups of young people taunting soldiers at Sule.

Within minutes, the crowd swelled from hundreds to a few thousand. The soldiers threw barbed wire coils across the roads.

Knowing that hundreds of people were gunned down in similar circumstances in a 1988 uprising, I climbed an old crosswalk directly overhead, to get to one of the few spots offering a clear view.

Below me, protesters were singing and waving flags; to the side, young men were thrusting their pelvises at the soldiers.

At about 1.30pm local time, two dark green, open-top army trucks approached, followed by dozens more packed with riot police. They were hit by a barrage of water bottles, fruit and abuse from the crowd.

I had already locked on my 135mm lens and set my camera shutter speed to 1000, aperture to F/7.1 and ISO at 800. With the camera on manual, I wanted to stop any movement while offering as much depth-of-field as possible.

Two minutes later, the shooting started. My eye caught a person flying backwards through the air. Instinctively, I started photographing, capturing four frames of the man on his back.

The entry point of the bullet is clear in the first frame, with a soldier in flip flops standing over the man and pointing a rifle. In the second frame, the man is reaching over to try and film.

More shots rang out. I flinched before getting off two more frames – one of the man pointing the camera at the soldier, and one of his face contorted in pain.

Beyond him, the crowd scattered before the advancing soldier. The whole incident, which went on to reverberate around the world, was over in two seconds.

I kept low on the bridge, capturing some more images from among a crowd taking cover. However, with soldiers firing shots and smoke grenades below, I had to get off the bridge.

With adrenaline pumping through my body, I put my camera in my bag and followed the protests for another hour and a half. Feeling the demonstration had lost its strength, I made my way back to my hotel via backstreets and along a railway line.

My initial caption read: “An injured man tries to photograph after police and military officials fired upon and then charged a crowd of thousands protesting in Yangon’s city center September 27, 2007.” Initially, I thought he was merely trampled. I had no idea he was dead.

Two of the frames showed the man’s face. A few hours later his colleagues in Japan had identified him as Japanese video journalist Kenji Nagai.

The images dominated front pages across the U.S. and the world. Mourners at Nagai’s funeral in Japan clutched the picture, which played a role in the public outrage that prompted Tokyo to scale back aid to the ruling military junta.”

57 comments

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This photo is of so low resolution (on the web page) that it is difficult to see any detail.

A larger version should be available.

[...] …http://www.thaiphotoblogs.com/index.php  ?blog=5&s=Adrees+Latif&sentence=sentenc e&submit=SearchThe story behind the pictures – Reuters.ukReuters Bangkok senior photographer adrees latif tells how he took the pictures which won him a [...]

Simply amazing.
Thank you for your vision.

-Christobal

Posted by Christobal Perez | Report as abusive

You possess a passion that drives great journalists to get the great story at any length, even personal safety. The world needed to know this story.

Posted by MComstock | Report as abusive

Congratulations Adrees. Very well deserved.

Posted by Paul Barker | Report as abusive

Congratulations, Adrees! It is so powerful to understand this photograph from the context in which you took it. Thank you for writing about the experience here.

[...] of the death of Kenji Nagai, a Japanese videographer. You can read the backstory behind the shot here, on the Reuters photo [...]

Adrees, a fitting reward for all your time, your relentless search for honesty and truth, the hard work you put in, not to mention your creativity, bravery and sense of team, well done Russell

Posted by Russell Boyce | Report as abusive

[...] The story behind the Pulitzer pictureThey Came… we saw… she conquered…Back on the Taiwan Killer media busCook the HuntGet your snouts outFiddling aroundHow Did He Shoot That?The Road West from KangdingWhen I Wake UpF8 and Be There [...]

Congratulations Adrees.

Posted by Bazuki Muhammad | Report as abusive

Hey Adrees. Congratulations, it is very well deserved. Keep it up. :D

Richly deserved, congratulations Adrees.

Posted by David Viggers | Report as abusive

[...] ground in Yangon in September 2007.  His account of taking pictures on those tumultuous days is available online.  Rest in Peace Kenji [...]

[...] a rather different story about photographing the news, read the Reuters blog, in which their senior Bangkok photographer Adrees Latif describes how he took the pictures of the [...]

Proving once again that the (photo)journalists at Reuters are the best in the world. Fearless, brilliant instincts and allowing the world see…well done.

Posted by Mike Steinharter | Report as abusive

Congratulations Adrees, your work is a example to follow for the young photojournalists.
Free TIBET!!!

[...] y en ella podemos ver al fotoperiodista japonés Kenji Nagai segundos antes de morir. Ésta es la historia de la foto contada por el propio [...]

On September 27th I was working on the night shift. I arrived to the office around 22:30 and I remember there was a lot of action going on in a commonly quiet place. Candida was working on the series of picture Adrees had just sent. All of them were incredible, clearly the front-pages for next days’ papers. I remember we were zooming in and zooming out in the pictures to see all details. Was the man grabbing a camera or a video recorder? Was he fatally wounded or was slightly injured? We could easily see the face of the man, grimacing in pain but still trying to film the turmoil around him, people around him running, slippers left behind, the soldier who had just shot him at close range. If I remember correctly, Rina Ota from the Japanese shift played a very important role on the identification of the Japanese cameraman. She was the only one in the shift who could talk to the colleagues of the man pictured by Adrees. They confirmed he was dead. We had an extraordinary picture of a sad moment, a picture that most probably had helped the world understand a little bit better what was going on in Myanmar at that time. Adrees took that kind of picture all photographers dream off, a picture that can change things.

Last April I was assigned to download and prepare the package of winning pictures of the World Press Photo awards. I had the clear conviction that Adrees was going to be one of the winners if not the total winner. When the winners’ list was released I felt like someone had stabbed my back. How could it be? This outstanding image wasn’t in any category!!! But then, yesterday, working on the night shift (again) we received the alert. He had won the Pulitzer prize!!! What better recognition to a brave picture taken in a very hostile environment, a prize to a calm brain who planned the best way of covering the events without risking his life, a prize for absolute photojournalism, a prize for simple but concise coverage. I say simple because it would sound ridiculous to cover such events with a semi-professional camera and just two fixed lenses. In this technology times we live on, most photographers will travel with the ultimate cameras, ultimate lenses, ultimate satellite phones. But no, Adrees went to Myanmar with an EOS 5D, relying on that camera that shots a few frames a second instead of the 10 frames a second of the best camera on the market, he brought two fixed lenses instead of zoom lenses that generally make coverage easier. Is not the camera what it makes a good photographer or a good photo, it is the eye, the brain behind that eye what makes the best equipment. And there are no many in the market for sale.

Cheers mate! It’s been a pleasure!

Pablo

Posted by Pablo Sanchez | Report as abusive

Amazing reaction time.. great vision, keep shooting, looking for more of your work..you deserve it.. thnk u

[...] And a Reuters story by Andrees Latif about how he snapped his prize winning photo. [...]

Mabruk Adrees!

Posted by Paul Holmes | Report as abusive

Adrees, Congratulations to you and your family. Well done. Hope to see you, Pookie and Cam soon. Best regards for your continued success, Barbara Aksamit, Houston

Posted by Barbara Aksamit | Report as abusive

Congratulations Adrees, your work inspire me to capture the moment that can shock the world. Congratulations and great work

Posted by Jhadiel | Report as abusive

Has this photo been altered? Where is the left arm of the policeman with the baton? I’m no pro, so maybe it’s just the resolution that distorts it, please comment if you know.

Posted by JT | Report as abusive

Congrats Adrees. Joan and I were on the keywording team that night shift when the set of pics broke. I quickly keyworded the 4 pics when they came in.

Hamish in London helped too. We had 10 downloads in the 1st hour!

It was great fun where time was the essence.

Congrats on your win!

Posted by Sharon Lee | Report as abusive

JT,

It is rather hard to see in this resolution but the left arm of the policeman is obscured by the round basketwork shield he is holding.

Posted by David Viggers | Report as abusive

Spectacular picture and history.

Just amazing.

Salam Adrees,
Mabrouk
I am proud for your classical and historical breaking news work which deserves you really this prize.Inshaallah , I pray for you to achieve more success in your future.I am a myanmar national.
Ko Tin Myint (Myanmar)

[...] Reuters Blog erzählt Andreas Latif die Hintergründe [...]

Thanks for sharing your view with us and congratiulations for the price

[...] leer, en el blog de Reuters de la mano del propio autor, la historia detrás de la fotografía. No sólo, como la tomó, y como [...]

[...] Source and Read More: blogs.reuters.com [...]

[...] Quiero repasar los Premios Pulitzer 2008, que se acaban de fallar, a ver si me ha tocado algo… Por otro lado, no sé donde he leido que en el blog de Reuters comentan toda la historia que hay detrás de la foto ganadora. [...]

[...] Os dejo el enlace a la historia que hay detrás de una gran foto. Pincha aquí. [...]

[...] were announced. Adrees Latif of Reuters won for Breaking News Photography “for his dramatic photograph of a Japanese videographer, sprawled on the pavement, fatally wounded during a street demonstration [...]

hey adrees — you’ve come a long way since the Houston Post! Big congratulations to you! I still have a photo of yours clipped of those children going crazy in their classroom with easter baskets …

Posted by Leigh Hopper | Report as abusive

Congratulations Adrees. A well-deserved honor. You are a credit to photo journalists everywhere. Proud to have you in the family. Give my best to Cam and hug Pookie for me.

Tim

Posted by Timothy Sloan | Report as abusive

[...] Além disso, o blog da Reuters também traz uma entrevista com ele (para quem lê em inglês) aqui. [...]

[...] Latif recounts the story behind his amazing image. Here is the link to the story on Reuters’ blog. Tagged as: adrees latif, pulitzer, [...]

Wow Adrees, I am very proud of you!!…I remember working with you when you were the head photographer at the Daily Cougar…such a great accomplishment for you, and you’ve always been an amazing photographer in my opinion…and now the whole world knows it…

Best,

Ericka Schiche

Posted by Ericka Schiche | Report as abusive

[...] the Reuters blog, the story of Pulitzer Price Winner image by Adress Latif, the photo of Japanese video journalist [...]

[...] Photographer Adrees Latif tells how he took the pictures which won him a Pulitzer Prize. “Tipped off by protests against soaring fuel prices, I landed in Yangon on 23 September, 2007, with some old clothes, a Canon 5D camera, two fixed lenses and a laptop. [...]

[...] Latif posted on Reuters Photograhpers Blog about taking the Pulitizer Prize winning photo of Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai being shot and killed by government troops in Myanmar/Burma. It [...]

Congratulations Adrees, your work is example to all journalists. You deserved this very well.

Posted by Shruti | Report as abusive

[...] the series. The Washington Post Pulitzer page has more information on their winners and finalists. Adrees Latif posted on Reuters Photograhpers Blog about taking the winning 2008 Pulitizer Prize Breaking News photo of [...]

[...] series. The Washington Post Pulitzer page has more information on their winners and finalists. Adrees Latif posted on Reuters Photograhpers Blog about taking the winning 2008 Pulitizer Prize Breaking News photo of [...]

Incredible photography and story to go along with it.

I wonder what kind of picture(s) Kenji Nagai got?

Posted by William | Report as abusive

congratulations adrees, you have done a great gob. Burma need more people like you hope your work will be a great example to young Burmese.I use to be one of the expatriates in Rangoon in late 90′s.
posted by Naeem Ahmed
Canada

Posted by naeem ahmed | Report as abusive

congratulations adrees, you have done a great gob. Burma need more people like you. hope your work will be a great example to young Burmese.I use to be one of the expatriates in Rangoon in late 90′s.
posted by Naeem Ahmed
Canada

Posted by naeem ahmed | Report as abusive

Adrees,

Never late to wish you all the best, and who else deserve more than our Nepal team to congratulate on your win ..it was us more exited and proud to tell people that we had the person who won the Pulitzer with us as a team in Nepal. Once again our congratulations and thank you for dragging into the “best of the best” ..most of the pictures there were taken by you. :)
regards
Shruti,Deepa and Gopal

Posted by Gopal Chitrakar | Report as abusive

Sir,with this photograph you wrote in image how human being is so agressive towards human being.A photo will not stop the war but it can help people to think how cruel it is for the world.If it happens that the soldier who shot the Videojournalist look at this photo,he will never forgive himself.Congratulations for your courage.George,Mauritius island,Indian Ocean

That is a shock. No good. We dont want it. But it happened. Nice photo.

Congratulations Adrees!! I’m currently in my final year studying photography and I’m doing one of my final essays on your courageous and powerful photographs, and discussing the power these images have given to the Burmese people the rest of the world. Thank-you. You are such an inspiration!!

Posted by Nassima | Report as abusive

…Adrees não fazia idéia de que aquele homem caído morrerria momentos mais tarde. Duas das fotos, distribuídas ao mundo pela agência Reuters, mostravam seu rosto e poucas horas mais tarde colegas japoneses identificaram o homem como sendo o repórter cinematográfico japonês Kenji Nagai.

A imagem de Nagai filmando mesmo após ter sido baleado dominou inúmeras capas de jornais e revistas internacionais e muito além de conter o drama do assassinato de um jornalista inocente, a foto comunica o drama de um povo inteiro, milhões de pessoas que sobrevivem na pobreza sob a mão pesada de governantes que se mantém no poder há décadas, prendem, executam, promovem o trabalho forçado, recrutam crianças para a guerra, proíbem a comunicação com o mundo externo e cometem toda sorte de injustiças impunemente…
http://www.agenciaraizes.com/oficina/200 8/05/06/11000-s/

Adrees, I do not believe that someone’s tragedy should benefit someone else in any possible way. The fact that a journalist wins a prize over the photo of someone who got shot just comes to show how we are losing our humanity for other gains, such as a Pulitzer Prize.
Just take a look at the comments posted congratulating you on your technique and talent. I am sure the relatives of the dead man felt the same when they saw this photo…..
Nothing personal and I hope no offense taken.

Posted by lazaros | Report as abusive

I am researching on photoreporters in Paris and I feel proud of your work. I work with a Canon too. Impressed by your work! Do you cover events in Pakistan or not?

Frankly I’m disgusted. A real photographer who was right at the scene died. That should be the story. Now this tele snapshot makes YOU profit. I don’t imply you did anything bad, but honestly, you have absolutely no moral qualms about it?

Posted by Sean Karlsson | Report as abusive

Lazaros, Sean,
I think we shoul avoid this kind of maniqueist aproach you have expressed. Adrees should be recognized and why not congratulate him by the simple fact that he was there in Myanmar, wich is a dangerous destination for journalists. He was there doing his job, playing an inportant role in society while reporting this tragedy that seems to be more common in that country we can imagine it. It’s clear he was not there for a pulitzer prize and it’s not about disrespecting Nagai’s family or memory, I think it’s about an image that brought Nagai’s personal tragedy to public, bringing attention to a whole people tragedy. It’s easy to criticize when we where not there, but if we think for a moment we would realize that Adrees could have also be the target of that shot and many people in his place would have ran away. Nagai, in the image is shown trying to keep reporting even when he was traped by that soldier, and it’s valuable to ask about the power and courage that made him stood straight, even then and Adrees can tell us about this power that in the end protect us of “losing our humanity”, as you said…

thank you

Hi Adrees Latif.

Congratulations to you and your family. Well done. Hope to see you soon in karachi Best regards
zia Mazhar Photographer in karachi Pakistan

Posted by zia mazhar | Report as abusive

Hi Adrees Latif.

Congratulations to you and your family. Well done. Hope to see you soon in karachi Best regards
zia Mazhar Photographer in karachi Pakistan
ziamazhar@hotmail.com
0092-333-2386689

Posted by zia mazhar | Report as abusive

what a skill!

Adrees,

I’ve followed your pictures since our stint in Iraq. This is an amazing photograph. Congratulations on the recognition.

-Wytt

Posted by Wytt | Report as abusive

thank you :(

[...] case you are interested here is the story behind Laatif’s award winning photograph Posted by hunterskipworth Filed in [...]

Salaam sir, Congratulations to you and your family. well done we really proud on you.

Posted by zaheer Chaudhary | Report as abusive

thank your so much..

I think as I read stories like this I come see that there are people in the world that are human. Like Kenji, when I saw this picture. It told a story of a man who loved be a journalist even if it mean his own death. We should not think of how he died by how this man lived.
Journalist was his life and adventure. My prayers are for his family.

Posted by Kayla | Report as abusive

Dear Latif,

The moment I processed your pic for our website. I was saying to my editor this is the photo of the year. Great Job my freind.

Mohsin Abbas
former staff The Hamilton Spectator Canada

I will look forward to have your email conatct.

I went to high school with Adrees, he is and has always been an amazing photographer!! As well Adrees is a completely generous and kind person. His success comes from his drive and amazing talent… He deserves all that he has accomplished..

- Rico

Posted by Rico | Report as abusive

[...] The story behind the Pulitzer picture Read the photographers story behind this years pulitzer prize winning photo (tags: photography photojournalism) [...]

Thank you :)

thanl you admin very macth… ;)

Adrees,
If you still get this, it’s Dai. Are you and C well? So very proud of you when it happened and now I can tell you finally. One day, I’ll tell you a story and why I knew there was Pulitzer in store. You’ll laugh at me, like you always did when I shared one of my ditzy tales.

Posted by daihuynh | Report as abusive

asdasd

Posted by yavuzselim | Report as abusive

f you still get this, it’s Dai. Are you and C well? So very proud of you when it happened and now I can tell you finally. One day, If you still get this, it’s Dai. Are you and C well? So very proud of you when it happened and now I can tell you finally. One day, I’ll tell you a story and why I knew there was Pulitzer in store. You’ll laugh at me, like you always did when I shared one of my ditzy tales.’ll tell you a story and why I knew there was Pulitzer in store. You’ll laugh at me, like you always did when I shared one of my ditzy tales.

Posted by yavuzselim | Report as abusive

[...] of the death of Kenji Nagai, a Japanese videographer. You can read the backstory behind the shot here, on the Reuters photo [...]

was a good information thank you

Posted by gulamin1 | Report as abusive

[...] Min nye favorittfotograf (bortsett fra Andreasl) er nå Adrees Latif. En pakistansk journalist som vant Publitzer for sitt bilde av journalisten Kenji Nagai som fortsetter å arbeide, selv når han ligger…. [...]

[...] Pakistan chief photographer Adrees Latif has won the prestigious ICP Infinity Award in Photojournalism for his outstanding coverage of last year’s Pakistan floods. Working under the most difficult of conditions he led the Reuters pictures team to tell the story from every possible angle. His images were published daily across international front pages, bringing attention to the enormity of the catastrophe from its early stages. Latif’s work has received numerous industry accolades including the Pulitzer prize for Breaking News Photography in 2008. [...]

[...] Pakistan chief photographer Adrees Latif has won the prestigious ICP Infinity Award in Photojournalism for his outstanding coverage of last year’s Pakistan floods. Working under the most difficult of conditions he led the Reuters pictures team to tell the story from every possible angle. His images were published daily across international front pages, bringing attention to the enormity of the catastrophe from its early stages. Latif’s work has received numerous industry accolades including the Pulitzer prize for Breaking News Photography in 2008. [...]