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August 30, 2007
Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Watson just published his memoirs as a war journalist: Where War Lives. In a captivating radio interview with Terry Gross on NPR's "Fresh Air" program, Watson talks about his experiences photographing wars for 20 years, (which resulted in post-traumatic stress syndrome, and need for psychiatric care).
The photo that won him the Pulitzer in 1994 is of a gang of giddy blood-crazed locals dragging the naked dead body of an American soldier through the streets Mogadishu, Somalia. In the interview, he describes that picture in particular, and his detailed memories of making that photograph. He believes to this day that the dead soldier spoke directly to him in a disembodied voice just before he snapped the picture: "If you do this, I will own you forever!" He took the picture anyway, and it has haunted him ever since.
You can listen directly to the interview, or download it as a podcast:
From the following blog entry:
The 1994 Pulitzer Prize photo by Paul Watson was published widely by the Associated Press, and Time magazine ran a version of the photo that was digitally altered (to reduce the shock). That image is credited for shocking the the US public into such a state of outrage that the Clinton administration began almost immediate withdrawl from Somalia. However, the photographer believes that the political sting created by that photograph became responsible, however indirectly, with Clinton's refusal to intervene in Rwanda, despite very different political and humanitarian situations. The powerful photograph affected positive change, but also prevented much needed action in another situation — for fear of a similar kind of photograph surfacing from Rwanda. You can hear how heavy the guilt weighs on the photographer as he talks in the interview.