June 4, 2023

The power behind the lens

“InVision: Bearing Witness with Carol Guzy,” a retrospective at the ArtsQuest’s Banana
Factory, took the audience on a journey around the world behind the lens of a camera. Guzy
alternated between sharing her personal stories and photo montages set to music.
Carol Guzy was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1956 and lived there until 1978 when she
completed her studies at Northampton Community College, graduating with an associate’s
degree in nursing. After a friend gave Guzy a camera, she watched her images come into focus
during the developing process and instantly found her calling. She earned an associate’s degree
in photography at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale in Florida.
Her internship at The Miami Herald led to being hired as a staff photographer. Guzy spent eight
years at the Herald. Then she relocated to Arlington, Virginia and found a job with The
Washington Post, where she stayed until 2014. She is now a freelance photojournalist pursuing
long-term documentary projects.
When a Colombian volcano erupted in 1985 and killed more than 20,000 people, Guzy’s images
of the tragedy won her a Pulitzer Prize for spot news photography. Nearly ten years later, when
U.S. troops entered the impoverished island nation of Haiti, Guzy’s images for the Post once
again brought far-away conflict to people back home, earning her a second Pulitzer.
“I don’t believe the Pulitzers belong to us. I think we just accept them for the people in our
stories. They’re the courageous ones who open up their lives so we can tell their stories,” Guzy
Guzy tries to connect to the people in her photographs, to feel what they are feeling. She said it’s
her “overdose of empathy” that keeps her going.
In 1999, when tens of thousands of Albanians fled violence in Kosovo, Guzy traveled to the
border capturing images of hope and heartache that earned her, and her team, a third Pulitzer, but
the experience brought her to an emotional breaking point.
She said, “I felt so guilty that I could get on a plane and leave and these beautiful people are
stuck in their reality long after the headlines are gone.”
After a leave of absence, Guzy returned to the Post and again began traveling the world, covering
conflicts from India to Ethiopia, but a big piece of herself rests in Haiti. When Haiti was
destroyed by an earthquake in 2010, Guzy was shaken to her core. Her coverage of the recovery
efforts earned Guzy and her colleagues a historic fourth Pulitzer.
“Haiti is the most intense in both positive and negative ways. The Haitian spirit touches your
soul. After the quake, the Haitians mourned, they prayed, they cried, they picked themselves up
and moved along. It’s unnerving.”

Guzy started to dive deeper into the lives of her subjects. She created photo narratives of children
from Sierra Leone who had suffered amputations in their homeland and had come to the United
States for prosthetic limbs. One of these children, Memuna Mansaray McShane, is Guzy’s
As Guzy explained each segment of her montages, her voice became shakier and started to crack.
Tears and tissues soon followed. Not only with her, but with most of her audience too.
One picture, in particular, was of a little girl being carried in the arms of a rescue worker. Her
faced was caked with dirt and dried blood. If it wasn’t for her ears, her skin color would have
remained unknown.
Devastation surrounded the little girl, buildings were demolished, and vehicles were crushed.
The ground was cracked in every direction, but on her face, a smile. A smile because she had
been given a teddy bear, a stuffed and furry ray of hope. She had lost everything and was the sole
survivor in her family.
For every photo of tragedy, death, and violence, there were ones of hope, selflessness, and
compassion. Guzy believes we’re meant to live in harmony, to embrace our diversities, learn
from our mistakes, welcome other cultures, and love one another.
During the Q&A segment, Guzy was asked which moment among her photographs was her
“You won’t find that one in a photograph,” she said. “My favorite moment was with my mother.
She had developed Alzheimer’s and was in a nursing home. We knew she didn’t have much time
left. I held her hand as she passed away. The last human touch my mother had before she died
was with me and that made me feel even better because it brought me peace.”
Photojournalists go out into the field, risking their own lives to chronicle humanity’s darkest
tragedies and greatest triumphs. A single photo can speak louder than several words can. It can
enhance a news story, making it more understandable to the viewer or reader.
Despite all the emphasis on new media, photography has never lost the power to move people.
Quite often, the focus is on the poor and dispossessed as an effort to break through abstraction
and indifference. In this fast-paced world, where the focus is on immediacy, a still photograph
stops time. It gives the viewer a moment to think, to react, and to feel.

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