Carol Guzy has a story that is inspirational and encouraging to me. It is so encouraging to know that someone else has basically gone through the same thing I have with trying to get an education and be happy in a job. As a junior in college who just changed majors from Athletic Training to Photojournalism her story gives me a kick of motivation.
Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Carol Guzy (born 1956) is one of the most renowned American photojournalists of all time. Guzy gets results because she focuses on shooting feelings rather than pictures. Through her lens, she has delved into the darkest corners of human existence, hoping to bring understanding between people in all parts of the world. Over the years, she has brought viewers face to face with Kosovo refugees, famine in Ethiopia, civil unrest in Haiti, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the tragedy of south Florida’s Hurricane Andrew.
Guzy lost her father when she was young, therefore being raised by her mother, who worked to make ends meet.
Speaking to News Photographer contributor Pete Souza, Guzy credited her mother with instilling in her the values that shine through in her photos. “I think I inherited her inner strength that keeps me going in life. She tried her best to teach me between right and wrong and moral values. She taught me to look into people’s eyes and see their souls, not their surface. Wealth does not make a person more valuable and poverty can not erase grace and dignity.”
“A photograph can be a powerful witness and an eloquent voice for those who have none,” Guzy wrote in a personal essay posted on the Poynter Institute Website. “Pictures inform, educate, enlighten, captivate, spur governments into action. They are historical documents and poignant reminders of our human frailties. Sometimes they touch our very souls.”
Guzy loved the arts as she grew up but her mother pushed her to choose a profession that there was a need for and that would provide a steady income. Guzy chose nursing and studied at Pennsylvania’s Northampton County Area Community College. However, when her boyfriend game her a 35mm camera, she fell in love with photography. She enrolled in a photography course, and failed, because her nursing studies prevented her from dedicating enough time to the hobby. Guzy earned her associate’s degree in registered nursing in 1978, but shortly after felt she had made a mistake. Her artistic side kept calling, so she headed south and enrolled at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Speaking to Debra Gersh of Editor & Publisher, Guzy recalled her leap of faith in leaving nursing before she even got started. “I just wanted to take a chance. I always felt a little bit adventuresome. I wanted to see the world, and I thought, well, this was an opportunity. It had at least the potential for traveling.”
Guzy never regretted the time she spent in nursing school and she believes it probably aided her photography career because it helped awaken her deep compassion and empathy for others. Also, having the nursing career to fall back on gave Guzy a sense of freedom to risk a career in photography, which she knew she might fail at. In 1980, she earned an associate’s degree in applied science in photography. She then worked an internship at the Miami Herald and ultimately found employment there as a staff photographer.
Carol Guzy has seen her fair share of accomplishments, three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and the first woman to be named Photographer of the Year at the prestigious annual Pictures of the Year contest.
As she explained to Sherry Ricchiardi in the American Journalism Review, “To me, nothing I’ve ever shot is good enough. I have gained a little bit of self-confidence in some areas. That comes with age and experience, but I’m still basically shy and introverted. I’m always afraid I’m going to screw up the next story. You’re only as good as your last picture.” Guzy has also admitted that she is not technically the best photographer around. “I know technically the negatives aren’t usually the best because I’m not as careful as I should be,” she told Gersh in Editor & Publisher. “But I think if you get the moment, it means more than anything. . . . I think photographers tend to many times overlight and overcontrol situations, and they miss the fact that what matters most is the moment. It’s just a split second of time, and if you miss it, you don’t have it. It’s gone forever!”