RIT alumnus wins 2021 Pulitzer Prize

COURTESY OF ROCHESTER INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

Evan Vucci became the 11th graduate from Rochester Institute of Technology to win a Pulitzer Prize for his work photographing protests after George Floyd’s death last summer.  

Vucci, chief photographer for the Associated Press in Washington, D.C., helped the photography staff win the top prize in Breaking News Photography for a collection of photos from multiple U.S. cities that captures the country’s response to Floyd’s killing. 

“When they announced the award, I couldn’t believe it,” Vucci said. “I’m not much of an awards guy, but I was very happy and proud — especially watching it with my family. I was shocked how happy I was.” 

Demonstrators overturn a car on May 31, 2020, as they protest the death of George Floyd.

Vucci had two photos submitted among the 10-member AP photo team judged on 20 images. One of his photos from June 4, 2020, shows demonstrators protesting in the rain near the White House. Another shot captures demonstrators overturning a car on May 31, 2020, as they protest the death of Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. 

The Olney, Maryland, native, who joined AP as a photographer in 2003, said he was particularly honored, because “one day we’ll look at 2020 the same way we did 1968 as far as American history.” 

“It’s exactly why you want to become a photographer, especially why you want to become a photojournalist, to do this kind of work truly documenting history,” he said. “To see that recognized is unbelievable, and to achieve that with your friends and peers is even better. When the time came for us to carry on the legacy of the Associated Press, we didn’t falter. We were able to continue the strong AP legacy." 

Demonstrators protest near the White House on June 4, 2020.

While it’s been more than two decades since graduating from RIT, Vucci said he continues to hearken back to his days at the university and credits former School of Photographic Arts and Sciences chair Bill DuBois with giving him the passion for photography he carries with him today. 

“His excitement for photography was infectious,” Vucci said. “He made it fun with his passion. I knew right away I made the right decision to get into photography and that I was in the right place.” 

Evan Vucci photographs a George Floyd protest in Washington, D.C.

SPAS professor William Snyder, a four-time Pulitzer winner and former director of photography at the Dallas Morning News, said RIT’s photo school faculty, with its diverse experience and teaching styles, sets the school apart. 

“At RIT, we have literally dozens of faculty who have a significant influence on photojournalism students’ style and perspective,” he said. “The photojournalism program has embraced that variety and versatility of style with its strong focus on storytelling, which allows students to develop their own unique voice and vision. That’s what separates us — and our alumni like Evan — in our work.”