BY: Michelle Liew
Malaysia-born Marcus Yam, 38, a journalist with the Los Angeles Times, has won the Pulitzer Prize for his pictures of the fall of Kabul, Afghanistan, to Taliban fighters, which were published last year.
The Los Angeles Times stated that Yam took photographs of “unspeakable tragedy and abiding emotion” despite being roughed up by insurgents. He was in close proximity with the fighters and was faced with many challenges in capturing moments during a war zone.
His “raw and urgent images of the US departure from Afghanistan that captured the human costs of the historic change in the country” became the reason for his Pulitzer Prize.
Yam was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur. He pursued a career in photography after departing from his job in aerospace engineering. He joined The Times in 2014 as a kickstart to his new career.
Yam’s editors noted that Yam has an “almost radical open-mindedness” in capturing the scenes of the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. His award in the breaking news category was the 49th Pulitzer Prize for The Times since 1942.
Apart from that, Yam had previously received national awards for photographs documenting the everyday plight of people enduring deadly clashes in the Gaza Strip in the Middle East.
Yam was part of two Pulitzer Prize-winning breaking news teams – for The Times in the coverage of the San Bernardino terrorist attacks in 2015 and for the Seattle Times when it reported on the deadly landslide in Oso, Washington, in 2014.
According to The Times, Yam repeatedly identified himself and pleaded for the right of journalists to record the conflict.
“The bravery and the courage really belong to everyday Afghans, whose lives were changed overnight,” Yam said as quote from FMT.
“As Westerners, we have the privilege of coming and going. And they are the ones that have to remain and to face the unknown. So, this (the award) is for them,” Yam added.
“The work honoured today is a reflection of the depth and breadth of LA Times journalism, and its consistently high quality,” The Times executive editor Kevin Merida said.
“We are proud of Marcus Yam for the raw power and humanity of his photojournalism in Afghanistan.”