By Daniel Trotta
NEW YORK (Reuters) – From the dusty town in Honduras where thousands are fleeing violence to the currents of the Rio Grande, Reuters photographers walked, waded and flew to capture images of thousands of Central American migrants seeking asylum in the United States.
The effort to document the human hardship and its political consequences was honored with a 2019 Pulitzer Prize on Monday, winning the breaking news photography award for “a vivid and startling visual narrative of the urgency, desperation and sadness of migrants as they journeyed to the U.S. from Central and South America,” the Pulitzer board said.
(For the package, see: https://reut.rs/2v4YVNm)
The entry included 20 pictures from 11 photographers, part of a larger team of people from 14 countries that were assigned to cover the story, some of them joining migrants for daylong journeys on foot. Colleagues were flown in from around the world to reinforce the U.S.- and Latin American-based team of photographers, drivers and fixers, many of them spending weeks or months on the road.
“It was important to us to have photographers from different backgrounds,” said Claudia Daut, Reuters Latin America picture editor based in Mexico City. “People from different countries look at the same thing differently because of their cultural backgrounds.”
Daut and Corinne Perkins, Reuters North America pictures editor based in New York City, had already identified immigration as the top news priority in the region, marshalling staff and resources to cover it even before U.S. President Donald Trump turned his attention to the caravans.
Nine of the 20 images came from Reuters photographer Adrees Latif, a 2008 Pulitzer winner who spent five months on the border.
One of Latif’s pictures, taken in waist-deep water on the Rio Grande river marking the U.S.-Mexican border, shows an approaching smuggler whose raft is laden with asylum-seekers. He had spent hours on the northern bank of the river, dressed in camouflage, waiting for that moment.
Later that same month, October 2018, Latif took another picture from the Rio Suchiate, marking Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, depicting a Honduran man in chest-high water carrying a 5-year-old child in one arm.
Both were taken with a 35 mm lens, meaning Latif had to get close.
“I wanted to show what the migrants are willing to risk to achieve a better life for themselves and their children,” Latif said. “I wanted to get in the water to make the viewer feel what they were going through.”
FROM THE AIR
In a series of photos from June 2018, Reuters photographer Mike Blake captured images of a migrant detention facility in Tornillo, Texas. Taking a bumpy ride in a small plane flying 1,000 feet (300 meters) overhead, Blake snapped pictures of children being marched in single file, like prisoners.
The pictures were used on the front pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times, generating public anger around the world. Within hours, Trump signed an executive order reversing his administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border.
Another picture also grabbed the public’s attention: Kim Kyung-Hoon’s image of a mother grabbing her twin daughters by the arm, one in diapers and wearing rubber sandals, the other barefoot, as a teargas cannister launched by U.S. authorities into Mexico at the San Diego-Tijuana border emitted its fumes. Kim is a South Korean national based in Tokyo who was on special assignment to cover the migrant caravan in Mexico.
On the Mexican side of the Mexican-Guatemalan border, Ueslei Marcelino of Brazil snapped a picture of a gap-toothed Honduran man clutching his baby before a phalanx of shielded Mexican riot police.
The migrant caravans departed from San Pedro Sula, a city in Honduras with one of the highest murder rates in the world. It was there that Goran Tomasevic, a Serbian based in Istanbul, captured a shot of a rooster walking past the slain body of a gang member, a demonstration of the violence that has caused so many migrants to flee.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Bill Rigby)