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Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photojournalist at WIU Sept. 17

August 26, 2009

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MACOMB, IL - - Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist John H. White, who has captured important moments in history throughout the world, will be at Western Illinois University Thursday, Sept. 17 to share some of his experiences and meet with students and faculty.

His presentation of visuals and accompanying remarks is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sept. 17 in the University Union Heritage Room. This session is open free to the public.

Throughout the day, White will also meet with journalism students, the student-run campus newspaper Western Courier and faculty.

The legendary Chicago photojournalist earned national recognition in the 1970s for his "Portrait of Black Chicago" series, which is part of the National Archives ( The honored collection grew out of the work he did during part of 1973 and Spring 1974 for the Environmental Protection Agency's DOCUMERICA project. Images were taken on Chicago's South Side and "Skid Row," depicting the conditions that many African Americans faced in the Windy City in that era. The National Archives quoted White, who said the DOCUMERICA assignment was "an opportunity to capture a slice of life, to capture history"; and even through the challenges the residents faced, he could feel the "spirit, love, zeal, pride and hopes of the community," which was captured in his photographs.

White, who has been a staff photographer at the Chicago Sun Times since 1978, has won more than 300 awards for his work, including the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. His winning portfolio of photos chronicled a year in the life of Chicago, and it was the first, and only, time, the Pulitzer was awarded for a body of "consistently excellent work on a variety of subjects," rather than a single photograph.

He has been teaching his life's craft at Columbia College (Chicago) for more than 30 years; and in a question-and-answer article appearing in the campus' Nov. 17, 2008 Columbia Chronicle newspaper, White revealed what is vital to being a photojournalist.

"The most important prescription I give my students are the three F-words: faith, focus and flight. I tell them to stay faithful, because without them, the world isn't complete, and to stay focused on what really counts and what really matters. But flight is the one I love most, because it's just to spread your wings and live your dreams," White said.

When asked about working for the Chicago Sun-Times, White said: "I don't work for the Chicago Sun-Times. I work for humanity. I work for the world; I am the eyes of the world by the way of the Chicago Sun-Times. I work for creation and the creator, and the Chicago Sun-Times serves as a wonderful vehicle through which I can share my daily work."

In 1990 White accompanied Rev. Jesse Jackson to South Africa for a rally trying to free Nelson Nandela who had been imprisoned 27 years.

"At the end the South African cops, with guns and dogs, started to surround us and started shooting people. And I saw them shoot … and I started taking pictures, and they pulled a gun on me to shoot me," White wrote about the photo that had appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times Feb. 13, 1990. (See "But the next morning, Mandela was released from prison, and here I was, out of all the places in the universe that I could be, I was there when Mandela was released. That Tuesday Mandela went to his home in Soweto for the first time. I went in the house, and I was the only photographer in there. Mandela came in the kitchen to get his coat to go out and greet the world—he was just smiling and putting on his jacket. And that was the moment this photo was taken. This was Mandela in his house for the first time, and that moment was precious to me, and precious to the world, and precious to him. And I could share it with the world – a moment in history."

For more information about the Sept. 17 event, contact Bill Knight at

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