1997 Photo Contest, Children's Award, Individual awards

John McConnico

The Associated Press

01 September, 1996

Miguel Ariel Rodríguez (left) and José Luis de León take Cassandra (1) to safety. Trapped in their home on the edge of the Guamani river, Puerto Rico, four of the nine-member Gómez family were swept off by the rising water. Her mother and three siblings did not survive the ordeal. But at dusk help was at hand for the others. The two men risked their lives to rescue them. What started as the kind of tropical storm inherent to the climate of the Caribbean turned into fierce Hurricane Hortense, which pelted Puerto Rico more than 45cm of rain and thrashed the island with 121kmph winds. As Hortense continued on its destructive course, it left 16 Puerto Ricans dead in its wake. John McConnico: 'I found out I had won the Children’s Award while I was covering the hostage crisis at the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima, Peru. That night, I celebrated at the best restaurant in town. In Puerto Rico, the two rescuers in the picture became state heroes, as the winning picture was published in all of the local papers. Weeks later they were invited to the state address, where Governor Pedro Rossello wept as he called them Puerto Rico's bravest residents in an emotional speech broadcast live across the island. For me, that speech was the most important part of the entire process, because it was not the photographer who received the accolades, but the subjects of the picture. It is something we see far too seldom in photojournalism. While there are many awards for photographers, rarely is recognition given to our subjects. And I think all photographers would like see that happen more often. Giving back to the people we photograph is, believe it or not, a better feeling than taking the picture to begin with.' (World Press Photo retrospective Children's Jury exhibition, 2003)

About the photographer

John McConnico

Joe McConnico (Fort Worth, Texas, 1965) studied photojournalism in Austin, while working as a photographer for The Daily Texan. He was nominated NPPA College Newspaper Photograph...

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