The Corcoran Gallery of Art is currently presenting award-winning photographs by members of the White House News Photographers' Association. The Eyes of History exhibition showcases extraordinary images of events that took place in the past year, including the war in Afghanistan, travels with President Bush; Ground Zero in New York; and sports and other human interest stories.
Many of the photographs are recognizable, but the men and women who take the pictures almost never are. Doug Mills of the Associated Press won first prize for Political Photograph of the year, when he captured the moment at a Florida elementary school of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card whispering into President Bush's ear that "America is Under Attack." Mario Toma of Getty Images produced the unforgettable photo of the "Bucket Brigade" where dozens of firefighters at Ground Zero passed buckets to each other one by one as they looked for victims in the rubble of the World Trade Center attacks.
"These really are the best of the best photographers in the photojournalism field in the world. I would stack these guys up against every group in the world for their technical competence, their advancement of their industry, their ethics, their embracing of technology," Kevin Gilbert said.
Kevin Gilbert is Coordinator of Photojournalism at the Corcoran College of Art and Design. He said the men and women who photograph the news need more than a "good eye" to get the job done. "You really have to have an overwhelming desire to be a historian, and a reporter of the truth. And then you have to have this artistic sense and the technical competency and the ability to pick up at a moment's notice and be out of the country for months," Mr. Gilbert said.
That's not easy on most of their families, he adds. Chasing the news can also be dangerous or even as life-threatening as being on the front lines in the military. Award-winning photographer Pete Souza of the Chicago Tribune recently returned from Afghanistan.
"I went to Afghanistan really to cover the people on the edge of war and I found myself right in the middle of a war. And there were some very scary times, that I'm glad I'm standing here talking to you," Mr. Souza said.
Pete Souza was in Afghanistan when the Taliban had just fled Kabul and the Northern Alliance was moving in. In one of the most joyful images of the war, the photograph Mr. Souza calls "Goodbye Taleban," a group of young boys celebrate in the streets by listening to loud music being played for the first time in years.
"I was standing on a roof of this shopkeeper's house. And the photograph shows the shopkeeper holding up a radio with a cassette deck and they were listening to music, because the Taleban forbade music. I think they were delighted that the Taleban had left, they were delighted that they were listening to music, they were delighted that this American photographer was standing on a roof, taking pictures of them listening to this loud music," Mr. Souza said.
The Corcoran Gallery Photojournalist Exhibition also focuses on history unfolding at the White House and Capitol Hill. Photographer Stephen Crowley of the New York Times was named Photographer of the Year for his portfolio of pictures of President Bush called, "A Day in the Life" which were taken on Day 96 of the President's first 100 days in office, as well as for his coverage of the war in Afghanistan. Mr. Crowley won first place for his photo of Senator Strom Thurmond at a Senate Judiciary meeting at the height of the anthrax scare on Capitol Hill. Senator Thurmond is in the center of the picture, looking composed, as he is surrounded by what appears to be a chaotic scene.
"So when I squeezed into this room - it was a very small room and it was jam-packed with staff and reporters and Senators and I wedged in there and I saw Senator Thurmond sitting in that chair. Some people described this picture as a Dutch Masters composition, which was very flattering but the color seemed to follow that tableau. And there was Strom Thurmond here was a guy who was at Normandy on D-Day and here he is now, at yet another war and he's almost 100 years old," Mr. Crowley said.
Last year, the White House News Photographers' Association and the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Design, joined forces in an educational collaboration which will provide training and resources for photojournalism students studying in the nation's capitol.
"Now we have this venue, we have the Corcoran museum who has said that photojournalism really is an art form. This is important to our culture and our history as a sculpture or a piece of ceramics or a painting. This is just a different means of personal expression that's wrapped up in something everybody feels they can do, but 99.9 percent out there with cameras could never do what these folks do. And that's why it's exciting to be here at the Corcoran," Program coordinator Kevin Gilbert said.
Kevin Gilbert is Coordinator of the Corcoran College of Art and Design. The Corcoran Gallery exhibition, The Eyes of History will run through the end of July.