Monday, December 11, 2006

Jahangir Razmi, Pulitzer Prize winner

I found this fascinating story in The Wall Street Journal.

Here are some extracts but the entire story is interesting ...

TEHRAN - On Aug. 27, 1979, two parallel lines of 11 men formed on a field of dry dirt in Sanandaj, Iran. One group wore blindfolds. The other held rifles. The command came in Farsi to fire: "Atesh!" Behind the soldier farthest to the right, a 12th man also shot, his Nikon camera and Kodak film preserving in black and white a mass execution.

Within hours, the photo ran across six columns in Ettela'at, the oldest newspaper in Iran. Within days, it appeared on front pages around the world. Within weeks, the new Iranian government annexed the offending paper. Within months, the photo won the Pulitzer Prize.

Ettela'at, however, didn't print the photographer's name, fearing his safety. The Pulitzer was officially awarded to "an unnamed photographer of United Press International," the news service that distributed the photo in the U.S. It remains the only time the award has ever been given to an anonymous recipient.

In fact, nearly three decades after the epochal photograph first appeared, almost no one knows who took it.

But Mr. Razmi, who is now 58, said part of him always wanted to step forward. He was disappointed when he first saw that his photo didn't carry his name. He was irked when others took credit, people who "never feel the danger," he said. And all the time, he was weighted by his secret, that of an ordinary man witness to extraordinary events. "Without this picture," he said, "I wouldn't be anything."

Emboldened by time and dismayed by the opportunism of his fellow photographers, Mr. Razmi decided the moment was right to tell his tale after this newspaper approached him. "My name should be there," he said.

Says Mr. Razmi: "There's no more reason to hide."

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