Pulitzer-Prize winning alumna on photographing war

BY AISLING DOHENY | News Editor | The Statesman  

Cheryl Diaz Meyer, one of UMD’s own, covered the war in Afghanistan and Iraq as a photojournalist in the early 2000’s.

Meyer volunteered to do the expedition and spent several weeks documenting the carnage, emotion and action alongside groups like the Afghan Northern Alliance and the Second Tank Battalion of the First Marine Division.

Pulitzer-Prize winning photojournalist and UMD alumna speaks to UMD community on Thursday in the Rafters.

On Thursday evening, the UMD Office of Cultural Diversity and the Alworth Institute welcomed renowned photojournalist Cheryl Diaz Meyer to speak about her work with war photography.

“This is the first war that was covered entirely digitally,” Meyer said.

Meyer, a female photojournalist, shot alongside the Second Tank Battalion of the First Marine Division in the Iraq War during a time when female marines weren’t even allowed on the front lines of combat.

“I didn’t initially realize how forward I would be,” she said.

She recalled the good and bad experiences all at once at her lecture Thursday evening. From facing extreme sandstorms to being shot at and receiving excessive harassment, the photojournalist had an array of stories to share.

“When we were with the Northern Alliance at their camp, there were no laws where we were,” Meyer said. “And one thing I learned in war reporting is that you have to know when it’s time to get out.”

Meyer discontinued her coverage of the war in Afghanistan after the murder of a Swedish journalist November 2001. She said she felt at peace with her decision.

Meyer did continue to cover the war in Iraq. She told the war from the perspective of the Iraqis while in Baghdad and even broke the rules by documenting Prisoners of War.

Meyer and her colleague were awarded the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for their coverage of the war.

The winning photo is one that was most difficult to take. Shot amidst battle, the Pulitzer awarded picture starred on the front page of 68 newspapers nationally and even more worldwide.

“I’m most proud of that picture, not because of the award it won, but because I had to find it within myself to take that picture,” Meyer said. “I put my life on the line. To me, that photo represents a personal moment of growth.”

Meyer graduated Cum Laude with a German major from UMD in 1990.

“I really discovered a passion for photography and storytelling about people later in my college career,” Meyer said.

She went on to pursue photojournalism at Western Kentucky University. She now works as the visual editor at McClatchy in D.C. and teaches at the University of Maryland.

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