© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WEDH · WEDN · WEDW · WEDY · WNPR
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
ATSC 3.0 FAQ
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Pulitzer-Winning Photographer Made Charlottesville Photo On His Last Day On The Job

People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va. on Aug. 12, 2017. Kelly won a Pulitzer Prize for the image.
Ryan M. Kelly
/
The Daily Progress via AP
People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va. on Aug. 12, 2017. Kelly won a Pulitzer Prize for the image.

Last summer, on August 12, photographer Ryan Kelly arrived at a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Va., to take pictures for the city's newspaper, The Daily Progress.

It was his last day on the job — and it was a memorable one. A photo he took of a car plowing through a crowd of counterprotesters became the defining image of the chaos that day.

On Monday, Kelly was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography for the photo he took.

The photo shows a car careening into a massive crowd, with bodies flying through the air.

"You see sunglasses and shoes and cellphones that aren't connected to people's hands or feet or heads. You see water spraying. There's just a lot of violent, violent details that are coming through in ways that you don't normally experience in everyday life," Kelly says.

The scene shown in Kelly's photo is the same incident in which 32-year-old Charlottesville residentHeather Heyer was killed, and in which 19 others were hospitalized.

"I'm honestly shocked that more people weren't affected by that," Kelly says. "It was such a violent collision. He was traveling so fast down the road when he collided with the crowd. It's amazing to me that more people didn't die, but I'm very thankful for that."

Kelly says his role as a photojournalist is to bear witness to the events around him, but that prior to the far-right rally, he hadn't "covered anything remotely as dramatic or intense" in his four years at the newspaper.

"There's not normally that sort of emotional wrestling that I have to do with an assignment, so this was something new and something more intense than I was used to dealing with," Kelly says. "But that's part of the job. That's news and this was absolutely news."

In Kelly's case, the news of the Charlottesville rally became a global story.

"I'm just happy I could have done my job in that moment despite the fact that I wish it had never happened to begin with," he says.

Kelly left journalism and now works for a brewery managing its social media. On his career shift, he says, "I love journalism. I believe passionately in its importance ... but I was just burnt out after four years and I needed a change."

Noah Caldwell and Emily Kopp edited and produced the audio for this story. Wynne Davis adapted it for the Web.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.

Related Content