Marcio Sanchez never expected to wear an armored vest while covering a protest in the U.S. He always thought that kind of equipment was reserved for war zones.
Sanchez, a former intern at the Reno Gazette Journal and longtime photographer for the Associated Press, found himself dodging rubber bullets and wandering through a haze of tear gas while covering the Black Lives Matter protest in Portland, Oregon, in May last year.
A colleague who had experience working in Afghanistan and Syria told him he never had to wear a bulletproof vest in the U.S.
“It was a very intense environment,” Sanchez said.
At that time, protests were erupting throughout the country following George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. In response to the bubbling unrest in Portland, former President Donald Trump deployed federal law enforcement agents to protect federal properties and monuments.
Sanchez was struck by those rubber bullets “left and right,” he said.
“I was wearing a bulletproof vest for the first time every day,” Sanchez said. “I was wearing a helmet and gas mask and all that stuff. We realized that was going to make us stand out, but there was no other way of doing it.”
But amid the chaos, Sanchez stayed focus on the mission: To document the protest.
He captured a moment when a woman crouched behind a concrete barrier to take refuge from flying projectiles. Her face was hidden behind a blue gas mask, only her closed eyes visible.
His photo earned him the Pulitzer Prize — making him the first Honduran to ever receive the prestigious journalistic award. He was among 10 AP photographers to win the award for Breaking News Photography.
The Los Angeles-based photographer was also a recent guest speaker at the University of Nevada, Reno in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, which lasts through Oct. 15.
“I have to say that was the signature moment in my career,” Sanchez said. “I got to really witness history.”
Read the full article here: First Honduran to win Pulitzer Prize shares the story behind his photo
This portion of the article is shared as part of our collaboration with the Reno Gazette-Journal. This story was originally published on September 22, 2021, and written by Marcella Corona.