NewsUCA Farnham

Graduate wins Pulitzer Prize for powerful images exposing extent of humanitarian crisis in Myanmar

A graduate from UCA Farnham is part of a team that has been awarded the Feature Photography Pulitzer Prize for their powerful images exposing the extent of the Rohingya refugee crisis.

Photojournalist Hannah McKay, who works for Reuters, travelled to Bangladesh last year to photograph Rohingya Muslims in refugee camps. While there, around 5,000 more people attempted to flee the extreme violence and militant attacks in Myanmar by crossing the border into Bangladesh, with many having walked for several days to reach the refugee camps.

“We were standing, looking out over paddy fields and grasslands – lots of water and one thin path leading to the border with Myanmar,” recounts the UCA Farnham graduate.

“In the distance we could see a huge group of people. But they weren’t moving. It was 4 o’clock in the afternoon with only two hours left of daylight. So we decided to move towards them.

“You are there trying to do your job with a camera in your hand. And then your heart overrules your head. I had been in the camps, where everything was quite settled. But then I saw the real chaos and the refugees’ desperate situation. You hear about it. But seeing it is a completely different thing.”

Hannah, who is originally from Coventry, spent 17 days in the Bangladesh refugee camps on what was her first foreign assignment since joining Reuters three months before. After getting a taste of photographing for press while doing work experience as part of her BA (Hons) Photography, Hannah has gone on to forge a career in photojournalism, working at the Coventry Telegraph and National News and Pictures, and freelancing for the Press Association, the European Press Photo Agency, and Reuters before securing a permanent role at the organisation.

Describing how it feels to have won the Pulitzer Prize, Hannah adds: “It means a lot. It’s such a prestigious award and I'm very proud to be part of such an incredible team of Reuters photographers who worked tirelessly to illustrate this story.

“I hoped my photographs would allow people to relate to the story, and the people in them, giving them a sense of what was unfolding in Bangladesh.

“There were a few moments where I was overwhelmed by what I was faced with, but I also knew the importance that the pictures I was taking had on the people in them, so I just tried to keep my head and my heart separate and focus on my job of being there.”

The Pulitzer Prize is an award for achievements in newspaper, magazine and online journalism, literature and musical composition. The Photography Staff of Reuters were announced the winners of the Feature Photography category for “shocking photographs that exposed the world to the violence Rohingya refugees faced in fleeing Myanmar."