An eerie photograph showing rows of body bags from the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo speckled the screen in the Freeman Auditorium in the HUB-Robeson Center Tuesday night.
Moments later, the image was replaced by people’s traumatized faces caked with dirt in the aftermath of the mudslide in Armero, Colombia. A lighter moment was soon projected: a young boy and girl smiling gleefully with their faces just inches apart.
The works belong to Carol Guzy, a four-time Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist who worked at The Washington Post for more than 25 years.
“We’re chameleons by nature — inhabiting someone’s skin intimately enough to tell their story, but trying to remain a neutral spectator of their world,” Guzy said.
During a presentation organized by the Department of Journalism and sponsored by Nikon, Guzy shared personal insights into her craft before launching into a slideshow highlighting the poignant conflicts she’s covered.
Guzy said pictures have the power to inform the public and spur governments into action.
Oftentimes though, the graphic nature of photographs can cause disdain among those reading their morning newspaper, Guzy said.
“Sensitivity is important, but there’s great danger in censoring reality,” Guzy said. “Yes, those photos are uncomfortable to view, but for many in this world, there is no breakfast cereal or freedom from fear. And perhaps, that’s what society should find the most intolerable.”
During her talk, Guzy discussed how photographers are taught to hide their emotions and humanity, even though many in the field suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Guzy herself has captured “life’s misfortunes,” including the war victims of Sierra Leone and a “surreal” New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Documenting history like that, Guzy said, takes its toll.
“I feel so strongly that we spend our lives expecting people to open up their most intimate lives to our cameras, that the least that we can do is to offer the same courage and transparency to promote a better understanding of the universal emotions that we all share,” she said.
Guzy said her job is so much more than snapping “great” photographs — it centers on building genuine trust with her subjects in order to tell their narratives.
“My greatest riches are the relationships that remain long after the story’s over and the camera is put down,” she said.
As an aspiring journalist, Victoria Yorgey said she enjoyed attending the event.
“The slideshow full of all her pictures was inspirational because they were all so different,” Yorgey (junior-broadcast journalism) said. “It’s just so cool that she was able to be in all of those different places.”
Brooke Fecko said she didn’t realize she would be taken on an adventure through Guzy’s “powerful” photos.
“It was a little bit much for me, to be honest,” Fecko (junior-neurobiology) said. “I was brought to tears, I laughed, I cried – everything.”