Photojournalist Renee Byer will discuss her year-long quest to capture the dramatic and heart-wrenching story of a mother and her dying son – a quest that won her the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for photography, journalism’s highest award – at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 13, in the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at the State University of New York at New Paltz.
The talk is titled “Capturing Intimate Moments” and is free and open to the public.
Byer, who is a photographer with the Sacramento Bee in California, is currently the ninth James H. Ottaway Sr. Professor of Journalism. She is a visiting professor in the college’s Journalism Program this semester and the fourth Pulitzer Prize-winning Ottaway professor to come to the college since it began the distinguished professorship in 2000.
Byer is not only the first Ottaway professor who is a photojournalist, but also the first with local roots. She was born in Yonkers but grew up in nearby Rosendale, where her father, Walter, was the police chief. 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. She later graduated cum laude from Bradley University in Peoria, Ill.
Byer’s award-winning work “shows what journalism can be – evocative, touching and connected to the people we report about,” said Professor Robert Miraldi of the college’s Journalism Program. “Her photographs will both inspire, and deflate, your spirit.”
A sampling of Byer’s work will be on display at the Dorsky Museum through April 13 and includes 40 of her Pulitzer-wining photos and a small sample of some of her other work.
Byer won her Pulitzer Prize, the top award in journalism, for a year-long series of photographs of a single mother and her 10-year-old son who was dying of cancer. "A Mother’s Journey,” shot in black and white, is an intimate portrayal of a single mother’s emotional and financial struggle as her son battled neuroblastoma, a rare form of childhood cancer.
This year-long documentary project was published as a four-part series in the Sacramento Bee and on the Web as a multimedia package. Along with the Pulitzer Prize, it won a World Understanding Award, as well the Society of Professional Journalist’s Sigma Delta Chi Award for feature photography. Its publication has led Byer on a whirlwind series of speaking engagements across America and the world.