On the last day of his job at a local newsroom, photojournalist Ryan Kelly took a picture that would end up winning him a Pulitzer Prize. Now, he works for a brewery.
Kelly captured the award-winning image in Charlottesville, Va. on Aug. 12, 2017, when an Ohio man drove a car into a crowd of counter-protestors at a white nationalist rally, striking several people and leaving 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead. Kelly was employed at the city’s sole daily newspaper, The Daily Progress, at the time. His photograph ran on the paper’s front page and served as a snapshot of the deadly incident. On Monday, Kelly was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer for Breaking News Photography.
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He wrote in TIME last year, “It was pure reflex. Years of photojournalism experience had prepared me to react instinctively, and it was more muscle memory than intentional composition that led to those photos.”
Kelly still works as a freelancer, but now runs social media for a Richmond, Va., brewery, according to Poynter. Days after the rally, he told the website: “It is very bizarre right now to be sitting in a cushy office, talking about websites and calendars and beer promotions when 48 hours ago I was in the middle of the biggest news story I’ve ever covered in my career.”
“I would die a happy man if I never witness anything like I saw on Saturday,” Kelly added.
On Monday, he told his former employer that he learned of the prize after stepping off a flight from Amsterdam, where he was awarded second-place for the photograph by the World Press Photo organization.
“I’m just standing here, waiting for my luggage, and it feels wild,” he told The Daily Progress. “I’ve looked up to the Pulitzer prizes for a long time and it’s hard to believe I’m part of that.”
He added, “The violence was terrible and I’m still heartbroken for the injured, and especially Heather Heyer’s family.”