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Remembering Michel du Cille Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

12 December 2014

His father, a newspaper reporter in Jamaica, introduced him to the staff photographer at the small paper. It made an impression on the boy. And in his junior year of high school, Michel du Cille decided that was what he wanted to do. And "they gave me a job."

Last Thursday, the Washington Post staffer, who was on assignment in Liberia to cover the Ebola crisis, collapsed while hiking back from a remote village. He was transported for two hours over dirt roads to a hospital where he was declared dead of an apparent heart attack. He was 58.

He had survived myeloma bone cancer and endured recent knee replacement surgery. He sounded tired to his friends but du Chille assured them he was fine. The story was the thing -- and it hadn't all been told yet.

He had returned to the job he had always wanted to do from his position as director of photography at the Washington Post. Back in the trenches with his camera, telling the story.

He was good at it.

After studying journalism at Indiana University and receiving a masters from Ohio University, du Chille went to work for the Miami Herald where he won two Pulizter Prizes and then for the Washington Post where he won his third.

He shared his first Pulitzer in 1986 with Carol Guzy for their coverage of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano in Colombia. His second Pulitzer in 1988 was for a documentary on crack cocaine addicts living in a public housing project. In 2008 he shared his third Pulitzer Prize with reporters Dana Priest and Anne Hull for an investigative series on the treatment of military veterans at Walter Reed.

In a tribute to him on the National Press Photographers Association site, Donald Winslow wrote:

From the beginning, those of us who attended Indiana University alongside du Cille at the School of Journalism (myself included) knew that he had a deep moral compass and an innate sense of fairness and justice. No matter how tired or pressed, he always had time for young students or his friends. His laugh was deep and genuine, as was his Jamaican anger when mistreated. His photographs, early in black-and-white then later in color, were distinctive, clear, iconic, uncluttered and concise. As an editor or a photographer or during his stint as the Post's photography director, he knew how to pick his own work and the best work of his peers -- and he knew how to fight for it to be used properly in print.

In October his invitation to participate in a journalism workshop at Syracuse University was withdrawn when a student expressed concern about du Chille's exposure to Ebola in West Africa.

Too bad. He would, no doubt, have made an impression on them as once upon a time a staff photographer on a small paper had made on him.

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