Reuters’ devastating, Pulitzer Prize-winning pictures of India’s Covid crisis

From hospitals, funeral pyres and remote villages to a Himalayan hillside, car parks and temples, Reuters photographers produced coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in India that captured the spread of the disease and its remorseless toll.

The Reuters team won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for pictures balancing “intimacy and devastation while offering viewers a heightened sense of place”, the jury said.

Chief Photographer for India, Danish Siddiqui, who died in July 2021 while covering the war in Afghanistan, took many of the pictures, including an aerial shot of fires from a mass cremation lighting up a Delhi housing estate.

One picture shows a gasping woman receiving oxygen in a car in a parking lot, because of the lack of space in hospitals. Another shows a 19-year-old in a protective suit kneeling before his mother’s body after it is placed on a pyre.

Pranav Mishra, 19, kneels toward the body of his mother Mamta Mishra who died aged 45 from coronavirus, ahead of her cremation in New Delhi on 4 May 2021

Manisha Bashu presses the chest of her father, who was having difficulty breathing, after he fell unconscious while receiving oxygen support at a Gurdwara (Sikh temple) in Ghaziabad on 30 April 2021

Residences surround the grounds of a crematorium during a mass cremation for victims of Covid-19 in New Delhi on 22 April 2021

Demonstrating that no one felt safe from the disease, Siddiqui also took a picture of an ash-covered Hindu holy man putting on a mask before a ritual dip in the Ganges river.

“Danish owned this story from the start,” said Ahmad Masood, Reuters Asia Chief Photographer. “He broke news with his pictures, showing the scale of the devastation both in Delhi and rural areas. This is a testament to his courage and dedication to journalism.”

Just a month before he left for Afghanistan, Siddiqui was on the phone to Sanna Irshad Mattoo, a photojournalist in Kashmir, discussing a different way to illustrate the pandemic. They decided she would visit one of the most remote vaccination camps in the country, on a steep Himalayan hillside.

With no roads suitable for cars, she went up by pony and trekked to the site in Lidderwat, about 3,400m high, to take the picture of a shepherd receiving his shot.

A healthcare worker administers a dose of CoviShield vaccine to a shepherd during a vaccination drive in Lidderwat, in Kashmir’s Anantnag district on 10 June 2021

A man sits next to his wife, who was suffering from a high fever, as she intravenously receives rehydration fluid at a makeshift clinic in Parsaul village, Uttar Pradesh on 22 May 2021

A ‘Naga Sadhu’, or Hindu holy man, places a mask across his face before entering the Ganges river during the traditional Shahi Snan, or royal dip, at the Kumbh Mela festival in Haridwar on 12 April 2021

In western India, veteran photojournalist Amit Dave took a photograph of a veil-covered brick kiln worker having her temperature checked in her hut during a vaccination drive.

Adnan Abidi, a friend and colleague of Siddiqui who worked with him for over a decade, took a number of the photographs cited by the Pulitzer Prize jury. He travelled outside Delhi to find a village where a man had dragged a cot into the shade from the midsummer sun so his wife could lie in comfort before receiving rehydration fluid.

At a Sikh temple that was providing oxygen to people who could not afford it, he took the picture of a woman desperately pumping the chest of her ailing father.

Manoj Kumar waves a handkerchief from the back seat of his vehicle at his mother Vidhya Devi as she receives oxygen in the parking lot of a Gurudwara in Ghaziabad on 24 April 2021

A man grieves as his family member is declared dead outside the coronavirus casualty ward at the Guru Teg Bahadur hospital in New Delhi on 23 April 2021

The body of a person who died from coronavirus lies on a funeral pyre during a mass cremation in New Delhi on 1 May 2021

A patient suffering from Covid-19 is attended to by hospital staff inside the emergency ward of the Holy Family hospital in New Delhi on 29 April 2021

At the height of the pandemic, many victims were cremated without their family members being allowed to attend. Abidi took one heartbreaking image of volunteers carrying away a bag containing unclaimed ashes from a crematorium.

In addition to covering the spread of the disease across the vast Indian landscape, the Reuters team had to take rigorous safety measures while in the field. They wore protective suits, sunglasses and masks and liberally used sanitisers on themselves and their equipment.

“We had to come back home to our family,” Abidi said.

“This is a tribute to him (Siddiqui) from the whole Reuters team,” said Abidi, who has been on two previous Pulitzer Prize-winning teams, one with Siddiqui. “I really miss him… I wish he was here with us.”

Reuters


Douglas Mateo

Douglas holds a position as a content writer at Neptune Pine. His academic qualifications in journalism and home science have offered her a wide base from which to line various topics. He has a proficiency in scripting articles related to the Health industry, including new findings, disease-related, or epidemic-related news. Apart from this, Douglas writes an independent blog and assists people in living healthy life.

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