Photojournalism acts as a pathway to a more empathetic and compassionate understanding of the world around us. This reporting provokes change when we witness the vast diversity of the human experience with our own eyes. In 2021, the Pulitzer Center supported photographic storytelling from all over the globe that places underreported stories in the forefront of our minds. These photographers are dedicated to highlighting the systemic issues we face in the world today. Their work supports constructive impact and has been used to create educational curriculum for all ages that broadens the audience and promotes an informed, globally-engaged public.
This work documents the highs and lows of the fight against COVID-19, provides an intimate account of the refugee experience, and visualizes the toll of climate change on the environment and human lives. It also celebrates many facets of identity, the fight for human rights, and the reclamation of sacred values. These stories are told by photographers all over the globe, many reporting in their own communities, showcasing diversity in both stories and storytellers. We are grateful to our grantees and reporting partners for their tireless efforts, overcoming immense challenges, and continuously innovating the craft of storytelling.
“For this project, we (writer Karen Naundorf and I) focused on femicides committed by security forces. We traveled through the extensive Province of Buenos Aires to talk to family members and people who try to change the system. We wanted to tell the stories of lives that ended way too soon and that could have been saved, and of the endless fight for justice of the ones left behind. I was pregnant at that time and we were in the middle of the pandemic—it was definitely not easy.
This project is so necessary and important and at the same time incredibly heartbreaking. Femicides have widespread effects: the violent loss, intense grief, families are torn apart, children become orphans, and many surviving dependents are living under threats. There’s so much injustice.
This portrait of Patricia has become the iconic photograph of the project because it’s all there, in her eyes: her endless sadness and at the same time, her strength and tireless fight for justice for her daughter. She had promised her dead daughter that there would be justice. She succeeded—the murderer got a life sentence. But still, that doesn’t bring her back.”
“To explore. Go to the last land. As far as it was possible by our own means, as our ancestors did, to discover the last great adventure of Homo sapiens across the planet: Tierra del Fuego.
There, with support from the Pulitzer Center, I found a story that needed to be revised. A story that was no longer written by the winners, but by the survivors. A story so common in our history on the road to progress, which we call civilization. Despite everything written in the history books and laws of Man, the Selk’nam prove that they are alive.
I believe it is every explorer's dream to bring to the public new information that reveals new knowledge for history, science, journalism, and society so that we can build new solutions, repairs and relationships so that future generations can enjoy a better, more peaceful and more diverse world. I am grateful to the Pulitzer Center for allowing me to simply explore.”
“I've been a refugee. For a short period during the war in Bosnia in the early 90's I had to flee my home. Being a refugee means being uprooted—a feeling that hardly ever leaves you.
Bosnia became a principal gateway to EU countries since Hungary fortified its border with Serbia. The country that had half of its population displaced during the war now became an unexpected gatekeeper of Europe. When the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelmed Bosnia it became clear that it would only exacerbate the tension between the local populace and the people on the move.
People on the move are probably the most disenfranchised, marginalized group stuck in the country that doesn't want them. The plight of the people on the move has to be documented vigilantly, particularly in these uncertain times of the pandemic.”
"I first met Sophia while covering a Black Lives Matter protest in San Francisco. She was eight months pregnant at the time. When I called her to ask if she would allow me to document her pregnancy, she immediately said, ‘Yes, what do you need from me? When do we start?’
Being able to document Sophia and the birth of her baby named Oshún was such a unique experience because Sophia was really excited to share her story. We both wanted readers to see a story that was representative of the Pacific Islander community. It was especially important to show that housing insecurity does not look the same for everyone.
After the story ran on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle, Sophia said it was the first time she and her family had seen a story about the Samoan American community portrayed in a positive way."
“I’m drawn to small and happy stories, the type of stories you don’t really find in the media, but that make you think about what’s important in life and feel more optimistic about the future. I was very surprised and thrilled when the Pulitzer Center decided to support me in this project.
This picture transports me to Latin America and makes me think how the COVID crisis has tested education systems in unprecedented ways. We need to learn from our lessons and make a more effective, equitable, and resilient education system to better withstand future shocks.”
“This image helped tell the story of a salmon disaster on the Lower Yukon River village of Emmonak in Western Alaska. For generations, the region has relied on chum salmon for both income and food.
This summer’s low return has meant no subsistence or commercial fishing for chum, something residents told us they have never faced before. ‘We’re just devastated,’ mayor Wilbur Hootch said.
Traveling to Emmonak allowed reporter Zach Hughes and I a chance to hear directly from the residents about why one species of fish means so much and how the lack of it creates tangible concern for their future. When Mr. Westlock showed us his smokehouse, it was a rare opportunity to see a small amount of fish in the village that his son had traveled a long way from Emmonak to get.”
“I spent almost a year documenting the consequences of the pandemic in my hometown of São Paulo during 2020, photographing hundreds of burials in the cemeteries and hunger in the streets. So for me it was very important to travel to central Brazil to get a close look at the food systems and possible breeding grounds for diseases more serious than COVID-19.
I spent 45 days traveling—between soybean and corn farms, Indigenous villages, fire devastated areas and areas dedicated to agroforestry—in search of answers about how our actions brought us to this pandemic and the positive actions trying to prevent new outbreaks.
In this image I was in the city of Sorriso, Mato Grosso, one of the cities that has grown the most in recent years in Brazil, and I could see in real time the transformation of the cerrado into a city, with thousands of birds being displaced to make way for avenues and buildings.”
These photojournalists are being recognized for their crucial contributions in documenting our shared history. Ana María Arévalo Gosen won the Leica Oskar Barnack Award for her series “Días Eternos,” which chronicles experiences of incarcerated women in El Salvador, Sarah Pabst’s photography was featured in BuzzFeed News’ “9 Photo Stories To Challenge Your View of the World,” and Adam Ferguson’s documentation of climate change in the American West appeared in TIME's Top 100 Photos of 2021.
Pulitzer-supported stories are also creating real-world impact. For photographer Victor Moriyama and Rainforest Investigations Network fellow Manuela Andreoni, hours spent camped out of slaughterhouses, following trucks down unnamed roads, and paddling through the Amazon in a holey canoe paid off when a Brazilian state attorney cited their project investigating the supply chain of leather seats in luxury SUVs—striking down a law that had facilitated the destruction of the Jaci-Paraná preserve.