Talisman Photo Essay

The money award, five thousand dollars, isn't all that much.

But the Pulitzer Prizes are the most sought-after awards in American journalism. They were established by an endowment in the 1904 will of Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "for the encouragement of public service, public morals, American literature and the advancement of education." Almost from the start, prizes have been awarded for news reporting, commentary, editorial cartooning, as well as for fiction, biography, history, poetry and drama.

Pulitzers for various forms of classical music, including ballet, weren't awarded until 1943. That was just two years after somebody also woke up to the fact that newspapers and magazines ran pictures too, and decided to award Pulitzers for photography.

It shouldn't surprise. Except on rare publications like the old Life Magazine or National Geographic in its free-spending heyday, photographers, especially news photographers, always have played second fiddle to their writing brethren. I should know. I was a reporter for 20 years before I became a professional photographer. I'm sure it's because I also was an avid amateur photographer during my years on the New York Daily News that I saw immediately how foolish this was.

The plain truth was that, even though it always was preferable to witness a story happening firsthand, we writers could make do if need be with a "fill" from colleagues: quotes drawn from another's notebook or tape recording. Not so with photographers. "F.8 and be there," was, and is, the news shooter's credo.

During the 1980 presidential campaign, The Daily News briefly put out an afternoon edition as well as a morning paper. I was tied by my new afternoon deadlines to Jimmy Carter's press plane, having to listen to an audio feed of the president's remarks when he spoke early in the day and then dictate a story by phone from my seat in order to make the latest edition.

God help me if someone had pegged a tomato-or worse, a shot-at the president.

There were never any photographers on the plane with me then. Covering news with a camera means you have no excuse for not being there-and for not getting a picture. Whether it's a great picture is up to the photographer and his or her skills, instincts, and, in some cases, luck.

Which is why anyone who ever has wondered what kind of person it takes to win a Pulitzer Prize in photography must go the Newseum in Arlington, Va., and see "The Pulitzer Prize Photographs: Capture the Moment" – and marvel at the work of some of the best men and women in the maddening, exhilarating and often dangerous business of photojournalism. It is the largest exhibition of Pulitzer Prize photography ever assembled in the U.S.

Glitzy though the Newseum is – its permanent exhibits have been designed to a fare-thee-well-the Pulitzer show is refreshingly austere. Just superb pictures, beautifully printed and elegantly hung in an upper floor salon, complemented by text from the excellent show catalog. Happily, too, the photos in the salon have not been blown up to mural size. They are of accessible scale and, therefore, much easier to take in.

These pictures don't have to overwhelm to impress.

What do impress are the behind-the-scene stories of each award-winning picture, often shedding new light even on images that have become icons.

Take Eddie Adams's 1968 picture of South Vietnam's national police chief summarily executing a Viet Cong officer on the streets of Saigon. The image became a talisman of the antiwar movement as an example of the war's excesses. But Adams, then with the AP, recalls in the text accompanying his picture that the South Vietnamese general, Nguyen Ngoc Loan, viewed the killing as an act of justice: the Viet Cong prisoner had just murdered a South Vietnamese colonel, his wife and their six children.

"How do you know you wouldn't have pulled the trigger yourself?" Adams asks-though the catalog also notes that Adams himself couldn't bring himself to even look at his image for some two years after he made it.

Then there is the sad story of South African photojournalist Kevin Carter, who made the indelible image of a starving Sudanese child, ribs exposed, crouched head to the ground, as a vulture sits nearby, awaiting the inevitable. It won the 1994 Pulitzer for feature photography and haunted Carter for the rest of his short life. Everyone wanted to know: why didn't he pick up the child? But journalists were warned never to touch famine victims, who may have transmittable disease. Still, Carter confided to a friend that he wished he had intervened. Shortly after he won the Pulitzer, a friend and colleague of Carter's was killed in township violence in South Africa and Carter's life spiraled quickly downward. He committed suicide at age 33.

But not every image and story here is somber or sad. Ken Geiger's exultant photograph of the Nigerian women's relay team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, reacting to the scoreboard announcing their Bronze medal in the just-ended 4x100 relay, is a glorious portrait of human joy. So too is Sal Vader's 1974 Vietnam-era winner showing members of an American family rushing to embrace their returning POW father.

Must one be a professional photographer to win a Pulitzer? No. "The competition is open to all comers who adhere to the rules," notes Seymour Topping, administrator of the Prizes.

That included the late Virginia Schau, who, driving on a fishing trip with her husband and father in 1953 in Redding, Calif., watched horrified as a tractor trailer went out of control on a bridge and began to plunge over the side. But, miraculously the cab stopped and dangled over the edge, with its two occupants screaming for help. As Schau's husband and another motorist lowered a rope to them, Schau's father reminded his daughter of the Sacramento Bee's weekly photo contest.

Schau rushed back to her car and grabbed her camera-a Kodak Brownie–and recorded the successful rescue.

She made the picture, won $10 from the Bee, as well as a Pulitzer.

THE PULITZER PRIZE PHOTOGRAPHS: CAPTURE THE MOMENT The Newseum, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va. Through March 11. Hours: Tu.-Sun., 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's days. Admission free. Metro: Rosslyn Station (Blue/Orange lines). Info: 703-284-3544 or 888/NEWSEUM.

Frank Van Riper is a Washington-based commercial and documentary photographer and author. His latest book is Down East Maine/A World Apart (Down East Books). He can be reached at fvanriper@aol.com.

Below you will find my photographic essay on the town of Brynmawr, south Wales, and some of the surrounding area. The photographs were taken in April of 2004 and are presented on this page in thumbnail format. Comments accompany each thumbnail and the thumbnails are linked to full-sized versions of the photos. Some of my comments reference historical associations, while others reference my ancestor's associations with Brynmawr.

The photos were taken using a Nikon Coolpix 880 digital camera and most of the photographs are large (1024x768). (I just couldn't bring myself to make them any smaller.) I welcome any comments or suggestions regarding this page, and I hope you enjoy the photos!

Jeffrey L. Thomas
e-mail: jltbalt1@verizon.net

And don't forget to visit "Brynmawr Scene" the official Brynmawr town web site!

Photographs of Brynmawr

BrynmawrView of Brynmawr and the hills beyond from King Street overlooking Well Street. According to Hilda Jennings in her 1934 book Brynmawr: A Study of a Distressed Area, "Up to 1800 it (Brynmawr) was practically uninhabited. The great hill fringed on one side by the long line of willows gave it its early name of Waun-y-Helegyn, or the field of the willows, remained for centuries untenanted except by the inhabitants of two or three farm-houses and shepherds' cottages."
BrynmawrEntering the town from the south the Brynmawr mural, commissioned to commemorate the town's Golden Jubilee in 2002, is a beautiful and welcoming sight.
BrynmawrView of Market Square. The Town War Memorial stands to the right. As early as 1844 a Market Hall was built and after various alterations was replaced by a new and larger hall in 1894. The trade done in the market was largely wholesale, but in addition several local shopkeepers had stalls there, and applications for places in the market were received from as far afield as Sheffield. Christmas poultry fairs were held in the hall, and stock fairs on the adjoining ground. The new hall was built at the public expense and was opened by a civic ceremony and lunch to which two hundred guests were invited. (Jennings)
BrynmawrClose-up view of The War Memorial at Market Square.
BrynmawrView of the New Griffin Hotel (formerly the Castle Hotel). Bailey Street is to the right and Beaufort Street to the left.
BrynmawrView of Beaufort Street near Market Square, Brynmawr. Beaufort Street has been the focus of Brynmawr's business district since the town's early days. By the mid-19th century many merchants had set up shop here to serve the growing community of industrial workers pouring into the town. Ferrari's, to the left, was the site of the original Castle Hotel, a popular 19th-century pub. The Castle eventually moved into the building on the right of the photo, and was later replaced by the New Griffin Hotel.
BrynmawrAdditional view of Beaufort Street.
BrynmawrThe Brynmawr Scene Visitor & Info Centre opened its doors to the public on 11th October 2004. Sue and Robert Ball are the proprietors and it is a not-for-profit voluntary community enterprise. Brynmawr Scene Visitor & Info Centre is situated in 34 Bailey Street, Brynmawr, Blaenau Gwent NP23 4AW.
BrynmawrBrynmawr and District Museum, Market Street, is housed in the old public library building. Because of the valiant efforts of those who founded the museum in 2003, Brynmawr's history is being preserved for future generations, and, thanks to the hard work and generosity of many individuals, the museum has managed to amass an impressive and unique collection of treasures from Brynamwr's past. The Museum has already attracted thousands of visitors (including a couple of visitors from overseas). This is a must-stop for anybody visiting the town.
BrynmawrView of the interior of the Brynmawr and District Museum. The museum's walls, shelves and cabinets provide visitors with an enlightening look at the history of Brynmawr and some of the town's historic treasures.
BrynmawrThe museum features several fine pieces of local furniture made by the Brynmawr Furniture company, founded as part of an effort to revitalize the town's economic fortunes during the Depression years - the so-called "Brynmawr Experiment."
BrynmawrThe museum collection includes several artifacts from Rehoboth Church (additional photos below), which once stood on King Street, including the church organ.
BrynmawrSome of the photographs on display at the museum feature students and members of various organizations and clubs. Could one of your relatives be here?
BrynmawrThese artifacts found in the museum are a tribute to Brynmawr's brewing heritage. Some of the town's present-day pubs (the location) have been in business for well over a century. Cheers!
BrynmawrSome of the museum's collection focuses (naturally) on Brynmawr's rich industrial heritage. The photo here features a well-preserved 19th-century miner's lamp.
BrynmawrView of Somerset Street (upper end). My Thomas ancestors were living on Somerset Street in the 1841 census. The family emigrated to Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1848. Somerset Street was created during the town's expansion period, 1820 to 1840.
BrynmawrView of Somerset Street (lower end). Unlike the industrial settlements of Nantyglo, Beaufort, Blaenavon, and to a lesser degree Clydach, where the iron works were actually situated, the dormitory town of Brynmawr owed little in the way of building enterprise to the great employers. Individual workers built their own cottages here and there along the tramroads in the very early days, and shortly afterwards tradesmen who, like the workers, were attracted by the central position of the town, began to build courts and rows of houses as a commercial speculation. Later still, thrifty workers, who built their own cottages, invested what was left of their savings in the building of an additional cottage which was inhabited by a married member of their family or let to a fellow worker, and speculative builders put up rows of houses. (Jennings)
BrynmawrView of Glamorgan Street. My Davies ancestors lived on Glamorgan Street for many years. Specifically they are listed here in the 1841 and 1851 census of Brynmawr. Like Somerset, Glamorgan Street was also created during the 1820 to 1840 period.
BrynmawrAdditional view of Glamorgan Street.
BrynmawrView of Orchard Street. My Hares ancestors were living here at the time of the 1851 census.
BrynmawrThe Boundary Stone and Chartist memorial. This stone on Boundary Street marks the meeting point of three different parishes, Llanelly and Llangattock in (old) Breconshire, and Aberystruth in Monmouthshire. The wall plaque here commemorates the death of David Davies and his son David, from Brynmawr, who were killed in the ill-fated Chartist attack on Newport in 1839.
BrynmawrClose-up of the Chartist memorial on Boundary Street. Although the main thrust of the Chartist march on Newport came from the surrounding communities, Brynmawr's industrial workers definitely played a part in the rebellion. Leaders of the movement often met at the King Crispin pub on Boundary Street.
BrynmawrWorcester Street beyond Boundary Street (Llangattock Parish), Brynmawr. By the time of the 1861 census, my Davies ancestors had moved from Glamorgan Street to the portion of Worcester Street that lies Llangattock Parish.
BrynmawrView of Hatter Street, Brynmawr, so named because at one time this street was home to several hat makers. Photograph copyright 2004 by Judith Sylte.
BrynmawrAdditional view of Hatter Street. Photograph copyright 2004 by Judith Sylte.
BrynmawrView of the Worcester Street Car Park with modern its sculpture.
BrynmawrRehoboth Church, King Street. Rehoboth, built in 1827, was the first non-conformist chapel built in Brynmawr. Sadly, this historic, grand lady has been torn down to make way for a car park! There's a lot of Brynmawr history being lost with the destruction of this church, and it's a great shame that some other use for the building could not be found. Once again, parking seems to have triumphed over history.
BrynmawrClose up of the front of the Rehoboth Church. The Rev. David Stephenson was Rehoboth's first important leader. Stephenson, who lived near the church on Somerset Street, was renowned for his speaking ability and his ability to raise money for the church (Williams). He preached his last sermon in 1849, and soon after became one of thousands of victims of the terrible cholera epidemic that swept the region that year. He and his wife are buried at Rehoboth under the "big pew" near the alter.
BrynmawrView of the rear of the church and the overgrown cemetery. There are many grave markers here, some standing against the back wall of the church and others lying on the ground. What will happen to these important pieces of Brynmawr history?
BrynmawrAdditional view of the back of Rehoboth and the cemetery. Have you paid and displayed?
BrynmawrTabor Church on Davies Street is a non-conformist chapel built in 1835. The church was rebuilt in 1857. When Rehoboth Church was rebuilt in 1840, Tabor generously allowed Rehoboth's congregation to use their chapel for worship during construction. (Williams)
BrynmawrCalvary Church on King Street was first built in 1833 and a vestry was added in 1852. The chapel was rebuilt in 1879 to the design of Mr Gabe, architect of Merthyr Tydfil. Follow this link for an essay by Judith Sylte on the early history of this Brynmawr church.
BrynmawrLibanus Chapel Church, located at the top of Chapel Street, was founded in 1848 and was damaged by the infamous Brynmawr gunpowder explosion of 1870.
BrynmawrLibanus Chapel and other buildings nearby were so badly damaged by the explosion that they had to be reinforced with iron pins, one of which is still visible in this photograph of the side of the church.
BrynmawrBrynmawr town cemetery. Photograph taken near the cemetery entrance. The cemetery was founded in 1853, some say, to help alleviate overcrowding in the town's smaller chapel cemeteries. At present, the cemetery's burial register is being transcribed and will eventually be distributed to local records repositories and Family History societies.
BrynmawrView of the Brynmawr Cemetery with the town and surrounding hills in the background.
BrynmawrAdditional view of the Brynmawr Cemetery
BrynmawrThe Bridgend Inn on King Street serves up some of Brynmawr's best food and is a popular local gathering spot. This public house dates to the 19th century, and can been seen on the 1880 Ordnance Survey map of Brynmawr and in early photographs from the turn of the 20th century.
BrynmawrThe Talisman pub off Market Square. There's been a public house here for a century and a half. For much of that time, the pub here was known as the Black Lion Hotel. For years the Talisman has served as the meeting place for Brynmawr's Rotary club.
BrynmawrThe King William IV pub is located at the bottom of Glamorgan Street. In its heyday in the 19th century Glamorgan Street featured many pubs and beer retailers catering to Brynmawr's thirsty industrial workers. Today the King William is one of the lone survivors from this time period.
BrynmawrView of the "The Patches" above the town. Some of Brynmawr's earliest mining activity was concentrated here in the hills behind the town, where the earth was "patched" (the top layer of soil removed), and shafts were dug into the sides of the hills to extract coal and iron ore near the surface. Today this area stands as a stark reminder of Brynmawr's industrial past.
BrynmawrAdditional view of The Patches. These photographs were taken from the top of the town cemetery near Fitzroy Street.
BrynmawrAnother view of the "patched" ground above the town. In his 1927 book on the history of Rehoboth Church in Brynmawr, the Rev. W. Crwys Williams notes that "Here and there could been seen along the mountain sides small parties burrowing for coal veins, sometimes succeeding, sometimes not; close by were others engaged in unearthing and scouring what iron ore there was in the district."
BrynmawrView towards the bottom of King Street from the town cemetery.

Photographs of areas surrounding Brynmawr

ClydachThe ruins of the Clydach Iron Works near Brynmawr. The mining of iron ore and the smelting of iron began near Brynmawr in the early 18th century, and the ruins of the works at Clydach are the closest surviving iron works to the town. They can be seen as part of the Clydach Gorge walk, a great way to get out and see some of the beautiful scenery that surrounds Brynmawr!
ClydachCloser view of the Clydach Iron Works. Owing to the existence of a plentiful water-supply nearby, Clydach was the scene of intensive industrial activity well before Brynmawr became an established community. Works accounts for Clydach dated 1711-12 are extant, and in 1800 the Iron Works and forge here employed some four hundred hands. (Jennings)
ClydachSide view of the ruined iron works at Clydach. Difficulties with regard to the quality and cost of extraction of local ores, together with the gradual superseding of iron by steel, led to a decline in the iron trade which culminated in the closing down of the Clydach and Beaufort Iron Works in 1861. (Jennings)
NantygloThe Round Towers (the North Tower), Roundhouse Farm. By the early 19th century, industrialist brothers Crawshay and Joseph Bailey controlled much of the iron resources in the region, including the iron works at Nantyglo, about a mile from Brynmawr. Fearing that their workers would one day rise against them, in 1816 the Baileys built the last fortified tower in Britain as a place of refuge against a potential worker's revolt. Today these ruins stand as unique and important reminder of the region's industrial strife.
NantygloAdditional view of the North Tower. The North Tower today remains intact and was lived in up until a few decades ago. The South Tower (not shown) is greatly ruined. Special thanks go out to Mr. Glyn Jones, owner of Roundhouse Farm, who allowed us access to this important monument.
NantygloView of the farm building at Roundhouse Farm. The building here is unique because it is the only known farm building in the world that uses iron for its internal support beams and it's a-frame roof. Bailey used iron for strength and because as an Ironmaster it was cheaper than using wood. The windows and lintels here and in the two towers are also made of iron.
NantygloInterior view of the farm building with its iron A-frame roof supports.
LlanellyBeautiful Llanelly Parish Church (near Brynmawr), dates from the 12th century and continues in use today. My great-great grandparents, John J. Thomas and Elizabeth Davis from Brynmawr were married here on 28 Dec 1844. This is a general view of the church through its canopy of ancient yew trees. Follow this link for additional information about Llanelly church.
LlanellyThe large tower dominates this view of the church. The stained glass windows in the foreground are above the alter on the South aisle.
LlanellyLooking down the main walkway leading to the porch and the entrance to the church.
LlanellyView of the cemetery at Llanelly. The older section of the cemetery is divided into four sections close to the church, while the modern section is found on a hill just above the church. Llanelly's siting high on a hill commands spectacular views of the mountains valleys below.
LlanellyAdditional view of the cemetery at Llanelly.
LlanellyThe guidebook to the church notes that, "The ancient churchyard, within the magnificent circle of venerable yews, indicates that it was a sacred spot in pre-Christian times. These yews, which cannot easily be equaled in our country, were probably planted when the present church was built between 1200 and 1250."
LlanellyView of the church's South aisle from the alter. During marriage ceremonies here couples would have walked up this aisle, been married at the alter (below) and walked back down the North aisle as husband and wife.
LlanellyView of the Alter on the South aisle. The Tudor-period table here dates from the early 1600s and is one of many historic treasures found at the church.
LlanellyView of the North aisle from the back of the church.
LlanellyAdditional view of the interior of the church (North aisle).
LlanellyA beautiful stained glass window depicting St Elli from the North aisle of the church. St Elli was a 6th-century Welsh saint who is mentioned in the Life of St Cadoc. It is said that St Cadoc supervised St Elli's studies Llancarfan, the student eventually succeeding his master there. There are two churches in Wales dedicated to St Elli - the one here and another located at Llanelli in Carmarthenshire.
BlaenavonThe town of Blaenafon is about 5 miles from Brynmawr, and the ironworks here played a large part in the development of the region�s coal and iron industries. The first works were built in 1788-89 by Thomas Hill, Benjamin Pratt and Isaac Pratt, and by 1796 were producing over 4,000 tons of iron annually. Although the original 18th-century furnaces are gone, two other furnaces built circa 1810 can still be seen today.
BlaenavonAdditional view of the ruined iron works at Blaenavon.
BlaenavonThe Big Pit National Mining Museum of Wales is located just outside the town of Blaenavon. The first mines here date from 1840 and were used to supply the iron furnaces at nearby Blaenavon. The mine finally closed in 1980. The 50-minute walking tour of the disused mines is perhaps the best in Britain, as you make your way through dark and narrow passages with only the light from your miner's helmet to light the way. The day we visited, our engaging and knowledgeable guide was Glyn, a retired miner from Brynmawr!

 

Return to the Brynmawr, Wales pages
History of Brynmawr
Visit "Brynmawr Scene" the official Brynmawr town web site!
Return to the main page at the Thomas Family Web Site

Web site and photographs copyright � 2004 by Jeffrey L. Thomas, with all rights reserved.
e-mail: jltbalt1@verizon.net

 

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