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.”
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).