Inside Media: Pulitzer Prize Photography

July 25, 2009

By Lesette R. Heath, special programs coordinator

The Pulitzer-winning photo of President Bill Clinton emerging from the colonnade of the White House days before his impeachment was snapped by J. Scott Applewhite of The Associated Press.

"I’ve always referred to that photo as a surrender," said Applewhite, who took the picture moments before Clinton appeared before the press to apologize for his conduct in the Monica Lewinsky affair.

The veteran photojournalist agreed that the photo puts a historic event in proper perspective.

"Isn’t that the great part of still photography?" he asked. "It slows everything down, so you can examine it. One of the smallest details of the picture is that you can see his wedding band. People always point that out to me. We tend to see history, time — a mosaic map," he added.

Applewhite also sees his job as filling in the pieces of the mosaic whether he’s covering politics or war. Most of his assignments have involved capturing presidents from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama. But it’s the conflict coverage — like the invasions in Panama and Haiti — that has stood out the most in his mind.

"It’s not just about the competition for the day’s story," he said. "You have to watch out for yourself and other people, all the while you’re trying to tell the story of people who have it worse off than you do."

These days, Applewhite’s lens is carefully trained on Obama. He’s a member of "the pool," or the small group of journalists who follow Obama everywhere.

"No matter where the president goes, even if it’s to Fort Belvoir to play golf, we’re going to go," he said. "We’re competitors, but we never leave one another behind. We’re moving like one big amoeba."

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