du Cille
du Cille

The Washington Post

Michel du Cille, a three-time Pulitzer-Prize winning photojournalist, has died while covering Ebola in Liberia, Matt Schudel reported Thursday for the Post.

He collapsed after returning from a village in the Salala district of Liberia’s Bong County, where he had been working with Post reporter Justin Jouvenal. He was transported over dirt roads to a hospital two hours away but died of an apparent heart attack.

Du Cille's most recent work on Ebola in Liberia was published on Dec. 7 in the Post. He won three Pulitzers -- in 2008 for Public Service with Dana Priest and Anne Hull for their work on Walter Reed Hospital, in 1988 for his images for The Miami Herald on the crack epidemic, and in 1986 with Carol Guzy for their images of Colombia's Nevado del Ruiz volcano.

Du Cille, who previously worked in Liberia photographing Ebola, returned to the U.S. and was disinvited to speak at Syracuse University. In October, du Cille spoke with Poynter's Kenny Irby about that decision and his work in Liberia.

Poynter: How did you draw the Ebola assignment in Liberia?

Du Cille: I volunteered. I love working in West Africa and thought the Ebola story was historic. I didn’t want to miss it.

Du Cille is survived by his wife, Post photojournalist Nikki Kahn.

"We are all heartbroken," executive editor Martin Baron said in a note to the newsroom.

We have lost a beloved colleague and one of the world’s most accomplished photographers. Our thoughts and prayers are with Michel’s wife and fellow Post photographer Nikki Kahn, and his two children.

Michel died at 58 doing the work he loved. He was completely devoted to the story of Ebola, and he was determined to stay on the story despite its risks. That is the sort of courage and passion he displayed throughout his career.

The Post's publisher, Frederick J. Ryan Jr., released this statement:

“Only a day before his death, we exhibited Michel’s stunning Ebola photographs before an all-employee meeting at The Post. Once again, Michel had been witness to history and to human struggle and, as always, his photographs constituted storytelling of uncommon power. To learn now that we have lost this beloved colleague and exceptional journalist is absolutely heartbreaking.”

Poynter's Kenny Irby, who has known du Cille for years, last spoke with him in late November when du Cille was in Ethiopia. Irby remembers that du Cille sounded tired when the two spoke, but du Cille assured Irby that he was taking care of himself.

"And if you knew Michel, you knew that he was really committed," Irby said on Thursday night. "Whatever it took for him to cover a story, he was going to do it. In that case, it was good because it was his health."

Du Cille believe that photography, at its highest levels, could change lives, Irby said.

"He was fiercely committed to this story because he felt that justice wasn’t being served and that people in Sierra Leone and Liberia weren’t getting the help that they needed," Irby said. "He had a view that The Washington Post and the work that the Post did would expose that greater need to do something about it. Photography has that great power."