Berea College Alumnus, Bob Owen, is Pulitzer Finalist

Berea College alumnus Bob Owen, ’77, a photo-journalist with the San Antonio Express-News was named finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize, the most prestigious journalism competition in the nation, in the category of feature photography.

Owen and two of his colleagues were honored for what the jurors said were “chilling photographs that document the hard road Central American migrants must follow to seek refuge in the United States.”

Bob Owen Chief Photographer San Antonio Express-News. Dec. 22, 2014.

Bob Owen Chief Photographer San Antonio Express-News. Dec. 22, 2014.

Working along the Texas-Mexico border last year, Owen and his fellow photographers documented migrants from Central America. Owen also traveled through Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. In 2014, nearly 200,000 — many of them children traveling alone — illegally crossed the Texas-Mexico border in an unprecedented surge.

After reaching Mexico many immigrants ride the rails atop a train, infamously called “la bestia (the beast) on its northbound route. Owen photographed an immigrant who had lost his legs after falling under a moving train. He also made pictures of the family of a 15-year-old boy from Guatemala who died along the Rio Grande after crossing into Texas in early July.

For the feature photography entry, the nominating letter to the Pulitzer jurors noted that Owen and the other two photographers created an “exceptional body of documentary photography covering the mass migration from the Honduran-Salvadoran border, Guatemala and Mexico to the United States.”

Mike Leary, Express-News editor and senior vice president said, “We’re extremely proud of our talented and versatile photo staff and that Bob Owen, [and his colleagues] were singled out as Pulitzer finalists. They did extraordinary work documenting the squalid and dangerous conditions that impelled tens of thousands of Central Americans to leave their homes last year.”

Owen’s excellence in photography has been recognized elsewhere. Earlier this month, he won second place honors in the 81st National Headliner Awards in the newspaper feature photography category for a photo titled “Unidentified Immigrant’s Crisis.” He also won third place in the portrait category for a photo titled “Orphan Prayer,” depicting a young girl praying in Guatemala. Owen also won top awards last month at the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors convention.

The Pulitzer competition is sponsored by the Columbia School of Journalism and had more than 1,200 journalism entries this year from news organizations across the country.

Photos and captions follow (click image for larger versions).

Family members and friends carry the casket and walk in a funeral procession of a 24 year old man shot four times by gang members for not completing a task he was asked to do, in the small colonial town of Valle de Angeles, Honduras, just outside Tegucigalpa.  Saturday, July 5, 2014. Tens-of-thousands of Central Americans - many from Honduras - fleeing the increasing violence crossed into the United States in 2014.

Family members and friends carry the casket and walk in a funeral procession of a 24 year old man shot four times by gang members for not completing a task he was asked to do, in the small colonial town of Valle de Angeles, Honduras, just outside Tegucigalpa. Saturday, July 5, 2014. Tens-of-thousands of Central Americans – many from Honduras – fleeing the increasing violence crossed into the United States in 2014.

Immigrants ride the train known as "la bestia" as it leaves Arriaga, Mexico, at 1:30AM. Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. The train system running north from the Guatemala-Mexico border transports thousands of Central American immigrants through Mexico. Immigrants have been killed or have lost limbs after falling off the top of trains.

Immigrants ride the train known as “la bestia” as it leaves Arriaga, Mexico, at 1:30AM. Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. The train system running north from the Guatemala-Mexico border transports thousands of Central American immigrants through Mexico. Immigrants have been killed or have lost limbs after falling off the top of trains.

Jose Luis Ramos Castillo, 16, talks with his grandmother Maria de Jesus Rodriguez, 83, through the kitchen window, on Monday, June 30, 2014, as she prepares a pot of frijoles for their family. Castillo had planned to leave for the U.S. the day before with a friend, but the friend backed out because he didn't have the money he wanted to take.  The two teens from La Libertad, Honduras are planning another departure date. Castillo hadn't told his grandmother that he plans to leave.

Jose Luis Ramos Castillo, 16, talks with his grandmother Maria de Jesus Rodriguez, 83, through the kitchen window, on Monday, June 30, 2014, as she prepares a pot of frijoles for their family. Castillo had planned to leave for the U.S. the day before with a friend, but the friend backed out because he didn’t have the money he wanted to take. The two teens from La Libertad, Honduras are planning another departure date. Castillo hadn’t told his grandmother that he plans to leave.

A young girl says her prayers with others before eating lunch at Casa Rosa de Amor in San Lucas, just outside Antigua, Guatemala, on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. Parents making the treacherous journey abandon children at shelters or orphanages some never to return out of neglect or having died or killed along the trip.

A young girl says her prayers with others before eating lunch at Casa Rosa de Amor in San Lucas, just outside Antigua, Guatemala, on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. Parents making the treacherous journey abandon children at shelters or orphanages some never to return out of neglect or having died or killed along the trip.

Rafael Hernandez, director of Angeles del Desierto stands over the body of an undocumented immigrant, after placing a cross he made of broken twigs.  Hernandez came across the body while searching on a ranch just outside Falfurrias, Tx.,  on Wednesday Jan. 29, 2014. The death witnessed by a handful in South Texas was a precursor to the record number of Central American immigrants that were apprehended in 2014.

Rafael Hernandez, director of Angeles del Desierto stands over the body of an undocumented immigrant, after placing a cross he made of broken twigs. Hernandez came across the body while searching on a ranch just outside Falfurrias, Tx., on Wednesday Jan. 29, 2014. The death witnessed by a handful in South Texas was a precursor to the record number of Central American immigrants that were apprehended in 2014.