Reuters’ devastating Pulitzer Prize-winning images of India’s Covid crisis

From hospitals, funeral pyres and remote villages to a Himalayan hilltop, parking lots and temples, Reuters photographers produced coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in India that captured the spread of the disease and its relentless toll.

The Reuters team won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for images that “balance intimacy and desolation and give viewers an enhanced sense of place,” according to the judges.

Chief photographer for India Danish Siddiqui, who died in July 2021 while covering the war in Afghanistan, took many of the images, including an aerial view of mass cremation fires illuminating a Delhi housing estate.

One image shows a panting woman getting oxygen in a car in a parking lot due to the lack of space in hospitals. Another shows a 19-year-old in a hazmat suit kneeling in front of his mother’s body after it was placed on a pyre.

Pranav Mishra, 19, kneels in front of the body of his mother Mamta Mishra who died of coronavirus at the age of 45 before her cremation in New Delhi on May 4, 2021

(Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)

Manisha Bashu squeezes the chest of her father, who was struggling to breathe after falling unconscious while receiving oxygen support at a gurdwara (Sikh temple) in Ghaziabad on April 30, 2021

(Reuters/Adnan Abidi)

Apartment buildings surround the grounds of a crematorium during a mass cremation for victims of Covid-19 in New Delhi April 22, 2021

(Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)

To demonstrate that no one felt safe from the disease, Siddiqui also snapped a photo of an ash-covered Hindu holy man putting on a mask before a ritual bath in the Ganges.

“Danish took on this story from the start,” said Ahmad Masood, Reuters Asia’s chief photographer. “He has been spreading news through his pictures showing the extent of the devastation both in Delhi and in rural areas. This is a testament to his courage and dedication to journalism.”

Just a month before leaving for Afghanistan, Siddiqui spoke to Sanna Irshad Mattoo, a photojournalist in Kashmir, on the phone and discussed a different way of illustrating the pandemic. They decided that she would visit one of the country’s most remote vaccination camps, on a steep mountainside in the Himalayas.

As there were no roads suitable for cars, she climbed up on a pony and marched to the spot at Lidderwat, some 12,000 feet, to take a picture of a shepherd receiving his shot.

A health worker administers a dose of the CoviShield vaccine to a herdsman during a vaccination campaign in Lidderwat in Kashmir’s Anantnag district, June 10, 2021

(Reuters/Sanna Irshad)

A man sits next to his wife, who was suffering from a high fever, as she is given rehydration fluid intravenously at a makeshift clinic in the village of Parsaul, Uttar Pradesh May 22, 2021

(Reuters/Adnan Abidi)

A ‘Naga Sadhu’, or Hindu holy man, puts a mask on his face before taking a dip in the Ganges during the traditional Shahi Snan, or royal bath, at the Kumbh Mela festival in Haridwar April 12, 2021

(Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)

In the West Indies, veteran photojournalist Amit Dave snapped a photo of a veiled brick kiln worker checking her temperature in her hut during a vaccination drive.

Adnan Abidi, a friend and colleague of Siddiqui’s who has worked with him for over a decade, captured a series of the photos cited by the Pulitzer Prize jury. He traveled outside of Delhi to find a village where a man had been lugging a cot in the shade of the midsummer sun so his wife could lie comfortably before receiving rehydration fluid.

At a Sikh temple that provided oxygen to people who couldn’t afford it, he snapped a photo of a woman desperately pumping her ailing father’s chest.

Manoj Kumar waves a handkerchief to his mother Vidhya Devi from the back seat of his vehicle as she is given oxygen at the parking lot of a Gurudwara in Ghaziabad on April 24, 2021

(Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)

A man mourns as his family member is pronounced dead outside the coronavirus emergency room at Guru Teg Bahadur hospital in New Delhi on April 23, 2021

(Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)

The body of a person who died from the coronavirus lies on a pyre during a mass cremation in New Delhi on May 1, 2021

(Reuters/Adnan Abidi)

A patient suffering from Covid-19 is treated by hospital staff at the Emergency Department of Holy Family Hospital in New Delhi on April 29, 2021

(Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)

At the height of the pandemic, many victims were cremated without their family members being allowed to be present. Abidi snapped a heartbreaking picture of volunteers carrying a bag of uncollected ashes from a crematorium.

In addition to covering the spread of the disease across the vast Indian countryside, the Reuters team also had to implement strict safety measures on the ground. They wore hazmat suits, sunglasses and masks and liberally used disinfectants on themselves and their gear.

“We had to return home to our family,” Abidi said.

“This is a tribute to him (Siddiqui) from the entire Reuters team,” said Abidi, who has been on two previous Pulitzer Prize-winning teams, one with Siddiqui. “I really miss him… I wish he were here with us.”

Reuters Reuters’ devastating Pulitzer Prize-winning images of India’s Covid crisis


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