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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Alumni

Pulitzer winner visits class


UH alumnus Adrees Latif won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 with this shot of a Japanese videographer being assaulted during a 2007 protest in Yangon, Myanmar. | Courtesy of Reuters/Adrees Latif

Communication students received a rare opportunity to listen to the story of a Pulitzer Prize winner and what he went through to obtain a picture now recognized around the world.

Adrees Latif, a UH alumnus, established journalist and 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner in the breaking news photography category, was the guest speaker in Richard Carson’s photojournalism class Thursday.

Latif was awarded in 2008 for his 10-day investigative work for Reuters in Myanmar in 2007, when he captured a shot of a wounded Japanese videographer being attack amidst a major protest in the city of Yangon.

Latif’s had to go through a strict process when attempting to obtain his visa and faced some hurdles attempting to enter Myanmar. Because of the rise in anti-government protests at that time, the government wasn’t allowing media to enter the country.

“They were protesting about an increase in fuel prices. … I was one of the only journalists allowed into Burma (also known as Union of Myanmar),” Latif said.

On Sept. 27, 2007 a major crackdown occurred involving the military. But Latif kept his wits about him.

“My objective was to not get arrested before the real crackdown happened,” Latif said.

When the protest began to get out of control and violence broke out, Latif said he found that he was the only one still standing. His eyes were locked on the chaotic scene of police and citizens clashing in front of him.

“I looked down at the bridge, and everyone was laying flat,” Latif said. “I hated to be the only one standing up.”

He said he had to remind himself that he was there as a journalist. That was when he captured his historic shot, standing alone as guns sprayed in the background.

Latif didn’t get a chance to look at the picture he was snapping until he left the scene later on at a bus stop. When he discovered he might have captured something significant, he said he was dumbfounded.

“It was a mixture of rush and nervousness,” Latif said.

Latif sent his work back to the Reuters news desk in the U.S. and the picture that printed on the front page of almost every major newspaper, including The New York Times, Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, was anonymously accredited.

Latif said that he stopped entering awards after he graduated from UH because he felt that he was shooting or writing for that purpose. That’s why he stopped putting his name on his work.

It wasn’t until a year later, when he won the Pulitzer Prize, that his name was linked to the picture.

“Those pictures went — I don’t know why — without my name, and the Pulitzer board knows that. I’m not sure if that was part of the reason that it got the Pulitzer, or if it was that the coverage was provided from an area where coverage isn’t really allowed. Maybe it’s a few different things that got me the Pulitzer,” Latif said. “If I had to sum it up, I really feel honored to be able to report from that event and to be one of the few eyes and ears there, to visually provide pictures from a remote location — especially a place where you don’t get news from.”

Latif graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from UH in 1999.

He said he specifically benefited from learning under professors such as adjunct communication professor Carson.

“I have been really lucky to have great role models in my life. … I ran into Richard here, who kind of pushed me into the professional level and getting internships,” Latif said.

Latif said he never imagined he would win a Pultizer. But now that he has, he feels the pressure of matching his previous accomplishments.

“The only way I can match that is by winning another one,” Latif said. “I never even thought about the Pulitzer before, but now it’s like people remind me that I have one.”

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