William Snyder has won four Pulitzer prizes throughout his career, but the famed photographer got his start shooting football games for The Gleaner in Henderson, Kentucky.
At 14 years old, he shadowed a photographer working for the paper after receiving a camera as a gift from his parents to take with him on a trip to Europe.
From his early experience at The Gleaner, Snyder went on to graduate from Evansville Day School and later the Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York, with a bachelor’s of science in photography. He began his career at The Miami News before moving to The Dallas Morning News, where he would go on to win four Pulitzer prizes — 1989 in explanatory journalism for coverage of a 1985 airplane crash, 1991 in feature photography for coverage of Romanian orphanages, 1993 in spot news for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and 2006 in breaking news photography for coverage of Hurricane Katrina during his time as director of photography for the paper.
“If you look at the four, they’re all vastly different. It’s not like I did them in the same genre; everything is different,” he says. “They were all rewarding and they were all interesting in their way.”
Two years after winning his most recent Pulitzer, Snyder returned to his alma mater, the Rochester Institute, as a professor in the photojournalism program, which he now heads, and is leading a new generation of photojournalists into the field.
“If I can fill the world with people who are right thinkers and who push and are aggressive and can make the good arguments and are talented and can tell a story, then I’m going to have a bigger impact on the industry,” he says.
Snyder also keeps his feet fully in the field and currently is working on a book, “Join Together (With the Band),” of images during his time touring as a photographer with The Who, which can be ordered at jointogetherwiththebook.com with half of the proceeds being donated to Teen Cancer America.
From shooting historical events and exciting rock concerts to the emotional experience uncovering the conditions inside Romanian orphanages, Snyder says telling a story through photos always comes down to the same element.
“At the bare minimum you strip everything away and it’s about emotion,” he says. “If you concentrate on the emotion, at least that will take care of everything else.”