http://www.pulitzer.org/winners/photography-staff-1 (Robert Cohen, St. Louis Post-Dispatch – November 14, 2014)
This photo was part of a collection of winning entries for the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography in 2015. The collection centers around the iconic Ferguson, Missouri protests. These protests were covered extensively by the news, which brought many photojournalists to the scene. Each image in the collection was incredibly moving and informative in its own way. This picture, however, is what I immediately was drawn to while viewing the series.
This image exemplifies the emotional torment and physical destruction that struck Ferguson after the killing of an unarmed black man by police, a story we continue to hear every day. The picture shows two people in front of one of twelve local businesses that were utterly destroyed by the which came after many days of peaceful protesting in Ferguson.
Visually, the photographer creates a compelling story through photographic techniques such as framing, rule of thirds, lighting, motion, and exposure. The image utilizes framing by having the remnants of the burning building surround the two people in front of it, at both their sides and overhead. This use of framing relays a sense of danger, confinement, and hopelessness from the scene of the destruction to those viewing the photo far away. The rule of thirds is incredibly noticeable in this photo, with the top of the burning building on the upper third horizontal line, the base and front walls of the building on the lower third horizontal, and one of the people along the third vertical line. The combination of framing and heavy reliance on the rule of thirds creates an incredibly well-balanced image in terms of structure and in the way it can focus the viewers’ eyes on many different important parts of the photo.
Lighting, motion, and exposure are used for the purpose of creating a sense of energy, anticipation, and fear within the photo. This effect is likely due to the similar feelings that Ferguson residents, as well as minorities around the country, were feeling during the events surrounding this image. The image is incredibly backlit, in a manner that is is difficult to pick out the features of either person in the image, which is likely intentional. Additionally, the fire’s brightness and intense color is intentionally allowed to overwhelm the image, which gives it an even more dramatic tone. Motion is utilized in that those viewing the photo can almost feel the wood and flames falling in the building, and the passion involved in one of the subject’s arms being opened up at their shoulders creates emotional energy through movement and the photo was likely taken at that exact moment to intentionally play up the intensity of the scenes. The lack of exposure in the photo makes it even more dramatic, as the less important details that could have been shown with more exposure are removed, and the darkness of that night is incredibly enhanced, especially when comparing the darkness due to less exposure with the intense brightness created by the fire. Overal
Overall this photo is one of the most beautiful and compelling images I have seen in quite a while.