The impact of imagery

Photo credit: Renée Byer, from "A Mother’s Journey," 2005

Renee Byer, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in photojournalism, will be the ninth James H. Ottaway Sr. Professor of Journalism at New Paltz and, in conjunction with her professorship, Byer’s work is currently on display at the college’s Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art until April 11.

The exhibition includes images from her Pulitzer Prize-winning year-long series, titled “A Mother’s Journey,” an intimate portrayal of a single mother’s emotional and financial struggle as her 10 year-old son battled neuroblastoma, a rare form of childhood cancer.

“When done well,” said Byer, “photojournalism is a powerful tool because it connects people to the reality of life and can bring understanding and awareness to important issues.”

Byer, who will arrive on campus this April to conduct a series of workshops, class visits and public performances, is the fourth Pulitzer Prize winner the college has brought to campus since it began the distinguished professorship in 2000. She is the college’s first photojournalist and its first visiting professor with local roots, having grown up in the mid-Hudson Valley. She is currently Senior Photojournalist at the Sacramento (California) Bee, one of the nation’s top newspapers.

About her visit to campus, Byer said, “I would like to show students how documentary photojournalism can give back to society by engaging our compassion, empowering those without power or influence, and inspiring us to be better.”

Byer was born in Yonkers, N.Y., but grew up in nearby Rosendale where her father, Walter, was chief of police. She is a 1976 graduate of Rondout Valley High School. Her interest in photography began when she studied at Ulster County Community College, where she graduated in 1978.