1991 graduate receives second Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News


Sean Hawkey

2019 Award winning Pulitzer Prize Breaking News photographer Adrees Latif, 1991 JVHS alumnus, stands before Mexico’s Federal Police near the state line of Oaxaca and Chiapas. Latif covered the migrant caravan last year, which the police temporarily halted.

Andrea Zagal and Gianncarlo Hernandez

Reflecting on images that garnered him the 2019 Breaking News Pulitzer Prize, Jersey Village High School 1991 alumnus Adrees Latif discussed the award with JVHS Press reporters. This, Latif’s second Pulitzer Prize, was awarded in collaboration with 11 other Reuters photographers, who captured the journey of migrants from Central America and South America to seek asylum in the United States.

Latif’s interest in photojournalism developed during his sophomore year of high school, as he spent countless hours after school perfecting his photographs for both the yearbook and newspaper. After graduating from JVHS, he continued his education at the University of Houston, while working for the Houston Post, Houston Chronicle and other local newspapers. During his career he has crossed the world to capture moments for the world to view. He is now the Enterprise Editor for Reuters Pictures.

In his most recent project in May of 2018, Latif travelled to the border between the United States and Mexico, and staying there months witnessing the day by day dangers migrants encountered traveling to the United States. President Donald Trump’s recently enacted “zero tolerance” policy caused a huge wave of media coverage and soon enough, became a top focus in many news outlets.

We were trying to get as many photographers as possible. People from Asia have a different look at what’s happening here than other regional photographers may. We got a very diverse team of photographers.”

— Adrees Latif

Latif’s interest in covering immigration began before Trump established the new policy. Promoted from Reuters Editor in Charge, U.S. Pictures to Reuters Enterprise Editor gave him the freedom to begin the immigration project. Following the career move the collaboration alongside other photojournalists soon began. Photojournalists included in the Pulitzer Prize winning entry were based in different parts of Latin, South America Central America, and Eastern Europe.

“We were trying to get as many photographers as possible. People from Asia have a different look at what’s happening here than other regional photographers may. We got a very diverse team of photographers,” Latif said.

However, the most difficult parts of covering their journeys arose when the photographers wrestled with remaining on the sidelines helplessly, while witnessing the hardships of the migrants. Latif remembers a woman holding her child, in a group of 500 migrants, attempting to cross the border. She suffered from extreme dehydration, but he could not help her due to the crowd of people present. Helping one person meant all would want his help and he simply would not have the ability to accommodate the rush of people that would have moved toward him.

“It is extremely difficult to see people in distress and not help everyone at the same time. When I go to the border, I stop at H-E-B and grab 10 gallons of water. In my last trip, I grabbed seven gallons of water, and I could’ve used 70,” Latif said.

With one of his photos, the image of a Honduran man carrying a five year old boy through the Suchiate River into Mexico from Guatemala, Latif wanted to depict what migrants will risk to attain a better life. Latif entered the river so he could show, up close and personal, what migrants experience in their journey.

The physical aspect of following the migrants daily and experiencing what they experienced also proved difficult for Latif.

“They are walking for hours every day and you’re walking for hours, you’re dealing with all of the issues they’re dealing with. You realize what they’re dealing with, which is how their feet get blisters because of walking for hours. Of course, they’re carrying their children in their arms and you can imagine how their muscles must be feelings. You feel the heat and you’re stretching yourself physically. You’re dealing with things you never imagined,” Latif said.

This second Pulitzer Prize award differed from his first. The person who submitted his first entry did not believe Latif could win. The award announcement completely surprised him.

This time, Latif’s wife helped edit the entry and there was pressure to perfect the package.

“As someone who edited the package, I wanted it to do well, because I did not want to let the other team members down. It’s amazing collaborating with other photographers and other editors. I had a lot of pressure, because I knew we had done such an amazing job,” Latif said.

Pulitzer judges awarded the group the prize, citing they displayed a “vivid and startling visual narrative of the urgency, desperation and sadness of migrants as they journeyed to the U.S. from Central and South America.”

The images can be viewed at https://www.pulitzer.org/winners/photography-staff-reuters-1