NYT Obituary: Jamaican Photographer Michel du Cille

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This obituary by Ashley Southall and Bruce Weber appeared in The New York Times.

Michel du Cille, a news photographer who won three Pulitzer Prizes for his piercing images of people in dire circumstances, including a natural disaster in Colombia, drugs and poverty in Miami, and a military hospital dispensing unsatisfactory care in Washington, died on Thursday in Liberia, where he was covering the Ebola crisis for The Washington Post. He was 58.

Mr. du Cille collapsed while walking in Liberia’s Bong County, about 60 miles inland from the capital, Monrovia, The Post reported. He was pronounced dead at a hospital, presumably of a heart attack, the newspaper said.

“We are all heartbroken,” the Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, said in a statement to the newspaper’s employees. “We have lost a beloved colleague and one of the world’s most accomplished photographers.”

In a career that spanned more than 30 years and included assignments on five continents, Mr. du Cille (whose first name is pronounced like Michael and whose last is pronounced doo-SEAL) gained a reputation for making photographs that granted dignity to people under the stress of armed conflict, raging disease, natural calamity or consuming privation.

His photographs — sometimes blunt portraits of misery, sometimes more atmospheric suggestions of an unkind world — were characterized by an eye for the expressive angle, a skillfully packed frame and the often persuasive illusion of three dimensions. Whether an exhausted crack addict slumped in the front seat of a car, a crippled veteran being wheeled into a Bronx hospital chapel in dusklike light, an anguished and exhausted-looking morgue worker in Kandahar, Afghanistan, or a child whose mother had died of Ebola peering, away from the camera, through a screen door, Mr. du Cille’s images had depth, in more than one sense of the word.

He joined The Post in 1988 as a picture editor, but by then he had already won two Pulitzers at The Miami Herald. His first, in 1986, shared with Carol Guzy, was for their coverage of the 1985 eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano in Colombia. He won in the feature category in 1988 for a series portraying the decay and subsequent rehabilitation of a Miami housing project overrun by crack cocaine.

Mr. du Cille was named assistant managing editor for photography at The Post in 2007, and he oversaw the paper’s Pulitzer-winning photographic coverage of the Haitian earthquake in 2010. But he hadn’t entirely given up taking his own pictures. He covered civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone in the 1990s. His photos were included in a 2006 series he helped produce for The Post, “Being a Black Man.”

Working with the reporters Dana Priest and Anne Hull, he covered the treatment of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan at what was then called Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a 2007 investigative series that exposed shoddy treatment of patients and physical neglect of the premises, prompting an outcry from members of Congress and veterans’ advocates, and leading to the dismissal of the secretary of the Army and to several investigations of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care system.

The series earned the Pulitzer Prize for public service. In an interview Friday, Ms. Priest said Mr. du Cille’s remarkable gift, “aside from his brilliant photographs,” was his ability to find common ground with his subjects and inspire their trust.

“The reason he stands out among anyone I ever worked with was his compassion,” she said. “He was just a regular guy. I know that sounds trite. But for a photographer for a Washington newspaper, and a manager, he just seemed to ignore the power people and move toward everyone else,” she added.

Michelangelo Everard du Cille was born Jan. 24, 1956, in Kingston, Jamaica. As a teenager he moved with his family to Georgia, where he attended Gainesville High School, in the northeastern part of the state, and where his father, a former minister, worked for the local paper, The Gainesville Times.

“My father introduced me to the photographer at the small paper where he worked,” Mr. du Cille told The Post. “So I just decided in my junior year of high school that this is what I wanted to do, and they gave me a job.”

He later graduated from Indiana University and earned a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio University.

Mr. du Cille’s first marriage ended in divorce. His survivors include his wife, Nikki Kahn, a photographer at The Post; several siblings; and two children.

In recent years, Mr. du Cille, who had survived a bout with cancer, returned to full-time “shooting,” traveling to Afghanistan last year and photographing in a region controlled by the Taliban. Despite the danger, perhaps in part because of it, he felt an obligation to cover the story of Ebola in West Africa, he said.

“It is not an easy thing to see people lying on the ground dead or dying, or to watch someone helplessly trying to get treatment,” he said in a statement on video for The Post just days before his death. “It is not easy. But I feel that we have a responsibility to tell the story, and we have a responsibility to tell the story in a poignant, dignified, respectful way.”

For the original report go to http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/12/business/media/michel-du-cille-washington-post-announces-death-of-a-top-photographer.html?emc=edit_th_20141214&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=41473240

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