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Photojournalists risk their lives everyday. “It’s like having a mistress they can’t give up,” said Cyma Rubin, curator of The Pulitzer Prize Photographs: Capture the Moment exhibit currently touring the country.

The exhibit, which opened recently in Nashville’s Frist Center for the Visual Arts, features the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs ever shown in the U.S. It includes more than 130 pictures drawn from each year’s winning entries, ranging from 1942 to 2006.

“It’s about the scenes that the photographers risked their lives in many, many instances. Not only in the war zones, but in general. We would like to be there, but we’re not, so they are there for us,” Rubin said. And we should be glad they are. Many of the Pulitzer Prize winning photographs have changed the world, and continue to do so.

One such picture of a football game, helped change segregation in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Undefeated Drake School, an integrated school, was playing undefeated Oklahoma, an all-white team. Drake had a powerful African- American team member. “Oklahoma decided they wanted to get rid of him because they wanted to win,” Rubin said. “So they set him up.”

After repeated elbow jabs, the Oklahoma football team broke his jaw. The Pulitzer Prize winning picture was one of the only ones that captured the intentional violence. “The Drake team pulled out of the NCAA, rules were totally changed, and this became a very important photograph, which affected a whole social element,” she said.

The exhibit is also a history lesson. Each picture has text explaining the importance of the photograph at that moment, with additional comments from the photographers themselves. “We have found that students and children are mesmerized. I have emails from parents of four and five year olds who have spent three hours going through the exhibition asking the most poignant questions about different photographs,” she said. “School children are as attentive; they read every text panel.”

In addition to educating children, the exhibit also helps dispel rumors surrounding the prize-winning photographs. One of the rumors surrounds the famous photograph of six Marines atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, taken by Joe Rosenthal. The rumor is that the picture was posed. However, according to Rubin, he did no such thing.

“Joe didn’t know that this great photograph [of the flag] was sweeping America. [It] was saying ‘Hey, we can win. We are proud. This is our flag, these are our guys.’ So when he was interviewed, they said ‘Did you pose the picture?’ and Joe said ‘Yeah, I got the guys together, I posed the picture.’”

He had no idea, however, that the interviewer was talking about his flag-raising picture. He thought he was being asked about another picture taken the same day. “That myth has gone on forever, and I’m telling you, these are the facts,” Rubin said.

Although the images will always remain the same, Rubin said they will also always shed new light on a subject. “As you look at the still image, which remains still, compared to the moving image, which swoops by you, you’ll find that the still image every time has something else to offer. In a sense, it freezes a moment in time, and these are moments which we all cherish in one way or another,” she said.

“It becomes a learning experience, and it’s also an emotional attachment to the humanity of the American way of life, and also recognition of the photographers who happen to win the Pulitzer,” she continued. “There are many, many photographers who do photojournalism every single day. They don’t all win Pulitzers, but they do really great work.”

The first Pulitzer Prize for photography was awarded in 1942, and today, a 19-member Pulitzer board sifts through more than 2,500 entries. They award 21 prizes each year in two categories for photography: breaking news and feature. The competition is open to professional photojournalists and amateurs. The only requirement is that it has been published in an American newspaper.

The exhibit was developed by the Newseum, the interactive museum of news, in association with Business of Entertainment, Inc. The Newseum, originally opened in Arlington, Va., from 1997-2002, is currently being moved to Washington, D.C. on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the U.S. Capitol. The 250,000 square-foot museum of news opens in 2007. It is funded by the Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit for all people.

For more information on the Pulitzer Prize, visit www.pulitzer.org. For more information about The Pulitzer Prize Photographs: Capture the Moment, which runs through August 20, 2006 at the Frist Center, visit www.fristcenter.org.

Photography credits, from left to right
1. Carolyn Cole, Los Aneles Times
2. William C. Beall, Washington Daily News
3. Nat Fein, New York Herald Tribune
4. Slava Veder, The Associated Press
5. Joe Rosenthal, The Associated Press
6. Denver Rocky Mountain News staff

In case you miss the Pulitzer Exhibit at the Frist, please note the following upcoming dates in other parts of the country:

September 2006 - December 2006
Lake County Discovery Museum, Wauconda, Illinois

January 2007 - March 2007
Albertson College, Caldwell, Idaho

April 15, 2007 - July 15, 2007
Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

September 2007 - November 2007
Neville Public Museum, Green Bay, Wisconsin

January 2008 - March 2008
Florida International Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida

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