Ryan Martin, Guest Writer

The Missouri History Museum is hosting a free traveling exhibit showcasing Pulitzer Prize-winning photos until the end of January 2020.  Additionally, the exhibition will also feature a compilation of iconic and noteworthy photos from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch over the years.

Sponsored in part by Emily Pulitzer and JSM Charitable Trust, the traveling exhibit was developed by Newseum, a museum based in Washington, D.C.  as part of their dedicated effort to remind the general public of the importance of the freedoms of the First Amendment and free expression in all forms of media, particularly the press.  The exhibit touts itself as being “the most comprehensive collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning photos” ever amassed.

The exhibit “In Focus: St. Louis Post-Dispatch Photographs” was designed by the Missouri History Museum in collaboration with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch itself to offer visitors an opportunity to see the skills these photojournalists have and their impact on a local, national and even international scale.

The vast array of photographs on display span multiple decades, from as early as the first Pulitzer Prize-winning photo awarded in 1942 up to the current day.  The content covered in these photos are varied as well, at times offering an unflinching yet provocative representation of both individuals and society caught at their best and worst throughout history.  Many visitors will surely recognize iconic photos such as “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” or “Protestor Throwing Back Tear Gas” but will more than likely also come across a slew of powerful and thought-provoking snapshots new to them as well.

“I assumed I would recognize most of these photos, but there were plenty I hadn’t ever come across,” an out of town attendee commented.  “It’s very raw…very powerful.”

The exhibition has multiple electronic catalogues set up throughout the floor for attendees to scroll through, offering an even wider array of photos that did not make the final cut.  Specific collections also offer linked commentary made by the acclaimed photojournalists themselves. A twenty-minute looped video featuring interviews with many of these same photographers gives viewers a chance to hear about the process as well as the impact these photos have had both on the photographers’ careers and themselves personally.

Attendees have the opportunity at the very end of the exhibit to answer the questions posed to the general public regarding stances on the ethics of photojournalism and their importance in the age of social media and see how their views compare.

While the exhibit gives its attendees a chance to see these iconic snapshots uncensored, it is important to note that some of the content may be too intense or disturbing for some.  

A local volunteer, Mike, who has been working with this particular exhibit since its opening in early August noted that, “People may not necessarily end up ‘enjoying’ the exhibit per say, but they are impressed by it.  I think most people see value in having these on display and challenging them.”

Samantha L. Strauss, a recent grad student from Washington University, stated “This city is so complex and rich and I just love seeing that representation on display here, for better or worse.  People need to see this, to be confronted by this. These are challenging photos, but we live in challenging times.”

The Pulitzer Prize Photographs exhibit at the Missouri History Museum has been named an official Midwest Travel Treasure by AAA Midwest Traveler.  It is always available during the museum’s open hours.