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“I just burned out”: Pulitzer Prize winner left photojournalism eight months before the victory

Ryan Kelly
Ryan Kelly
August 12, 2017 photojournalist Ryan Kelly (Ryan Kelly) worked on a nationalistic rally in Charlottesville and took off, as a crowd of protesters crashed into the car.

As a result of the attack, one person was killed, about 20 were injured, and a photo was published in the local newspaper The Daily Progress, where Kelly worked.

Ryan Kelly's photo for The Daily Progress
Ryan Kelly’s photo for The Daily Progress

This was the last day of his work in the newspaper staff, at that time he had already agreed on cooperation with the Richmond brewery as a marketer.

A little money, a lot of work, a lot of stress. A lot of work at night and on weekends. I hardly saw my wife. And I just burned out.

Ryan Kelly
former photojournalist

In April 2018, a shot from Charlottesville received the Pulitzer Prize – one of the most prestigious US awards. Kelly learned about his victory after his friends and colleagues: at the time of the announcement of the winners he was on board the plane, and when he landed and switched on the phone, he “drowned” in messages, tweets and calls.

I have many complex feelings about this photo. I would like it not to happen. But since it’s impossible, I’m glad that photography exists. Unfortunately, this is journalism.

Ryan Kelly
former photojournalist

According to Kelly, he talked with the mother of a girl who died at a rally in Charlottesville and apologized for having to see again and again the scene of the attack and represent the death of her daughter, although she did not get into the frame. However, the woman thanked him for his work and said that he had done an important job – thanks to his picture, there is less chance that such violence will repeat.

Kelly admitted that he still believes in journalism and in local publications, although for him the work of a photojournalist was too exhausting.

You never know how stable or safe your work is. I can not speak for other local journalists, but I think that when they prefer to work outside of journalism, this is due to the general quality of life.

I miss the newspaper and the editorial office, but the quality of life is much better than a year ago. I no longer take a job at home. I work from 9 to 5. I have a stable job. I do not need to worry about leaving in a month or a year. And I work at the brewery, so at the end of the day there is free beer!

Ryan Kelly
former photojournalist
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