Emilio Morenatti began photographing the elderly in Spain during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, when it was decimating communities throughout Europe, and provided a glimpse into what was happening to the most vulnerable populations internationally for the remainder of the year.
A devastating view of a body on a gurney next to a Christmas tree two days before the holiday. An elderly couple hugging and kissing through a plastic film screen. The body of a person holding a rosary while lying peacefully in a coffin.
For his work, the Barcelona-based photographer was awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Photography, one of the Associated Press’ two photography Pulitzer Prizes this year.
“The outstanding work of the AP photography staff in covering racial justice protests and Emilio Morenatti’s compassionate, year-long look at the impact of COVID-19 on the elderly in Spain are two shining examples of what photojournalists strive to do everywhere: use light and shadow to bring knowledge and understanding to all corners of the globe,” said J. David Ake, AP assistant managing editor and director of photography, in a public statement.
Morenatti’s lens conveyed a stark contrast between what was happening on the ground in Europe and some international officials’ lack of concern for the pandemic — with Spain accounting for nearly 4 million cases and more than 80,000 deaths since.
In 2010, Morenatti was named the National Press Association of America’s Photographer of the Year.
His more than 30 years of experience in photography includes a stint in Afghanistan, where a vehicle he was traveling in was hit by a bomb, resulting in the amputation of his left leg below the knee.
The staff of Getty Images was recognized as a finalist in the category for its global COVID-19 coverage. Tyler Hicks of The New York Times was also a finalist for his work showing the pandemic’s impact in Brazil’s Amazon, a location home to Indigenous tribes.