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AP wins 2 Pulitzers for racial justice, COVID-19 photography

A protester carries a U.S. flag upside down, a sign of distress, next to a burning building, May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis. Protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody, broke out in Minneapolis for a third straight night. AP Photo by Julio Cortez

A Racial Reckoning in America

NEW YORK — The Associated Press has swept the Pulitzer Prize photography awards, winning both the breaking news and feature photography prizes for images of explosive protests over racial injustice and the pandemic’s toll on the elderly in Spain.

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A protester carries a U.S. flag upside down, a sign of distress, next to a burning building, May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

These are the 55th and 56th Pulitzer Prizes earned by The Associated Press, including 34 for photography.

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Agustina Cañamero, 81, and Pascual Pérez, 84, hug and kiss through a plastic film screen to avoid contracting the coronavirus at a nursing home in Barcelona, Spain, June 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

See a slideshow of the winning images.

“It is a tremendous honor to win not only one, but two Pulitzer Prizes for photography, and a true testament to the talent and dedication of AP photojournalists,” said AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt. “These photographers told the stories of the year through remarkable and unforgettable images that resonated around the world.”  

The breaking news photography achievement was awarded on the strength of photos taken in 2020 by AP photographers who captured the scale and emotion of racial justice protests in cities across the U.S. following the death of George Floyd, a Black man murdered by a police officer.

From a demonstrator carrying an upside-down flag past a burning liquor store in Minneapolis to clashes between police and protesters, the photojournalists documented a summer of unrest, often facing hostility from crowds and authorities. They dodged rubber bullets, tear gas and attacks by counter protesters as they documented the strife, destruction and outcry for peace.

AP’s chief photographer in Spain, Emilio Morenatti, earned the feature photography prize for poignant images showing the death and devastation among the elderly in Spain as a result of the global pandemic.

Morenatti captured nursing home residents hugging through plastic sheets, mortuary workers removing bodies, and a COVID-19 patient sunbathing in a hospital bed near the beach, among other photos that told the story of older adults isolated and dying from the coronavirus.

Separating himself from his family for months to avoid the risk of exposure, and taking great care to protect his subjects, Morenatti met with nursing home managers and health officials and visited the elderly at their homes to gain their trust before taking their pictures.

“The outstanding work of the AP photography staff in covering racial justice protests and Emilio Morenatti’s compassionate, year-long look at the impact of COVID-19 on the elderly in Spain are two shining examples of what photojournalists strive to do everywhere: use light and shadow to bring knowledge and understanding to all corners of the globe,” said J. David Ake, AP assistant managing editor and director of photography.

The Pulitzer juries nominated five AP finalists, including the two winners.

AP had two finalists in the investigative reporting category: a series that exposed widespread abuse in the lucrative palm oil industry and traced the oil to major Western companies, and reporting that held China accountable for its early mishandling of COVID-19 and human rights violations against the Uyghurs.

AP was also a finalist in the breaking news photography category for images of the immediate aftermath of the Beirut port explosion that leveled part of the city. AP photojournalists left their own damaged homes and traumatized families, walking for miles over debris, shattered glass and dead bodies to capture the destruction.

AP last had five Pulitzer finalists in 2019, the year it won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for its coverage of the Yemen war.

This is the second year in a row AP has won the Pulitzer for feature photography. In 2020, AP earned the prize for images of life in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

AP last won both photography prizes in 1999.


Lauren Easton
Global Director of Media Relations and Corporate Communications
The Associated Press

Patrick Maks
Media Relations Manager
The Associated Press

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