Michel du Cille, a Washington Post photographer who won three Pulitzer Prizes for his images capturing people in dire circumstances - from a natural disaster in Colombia to drugs and poverty in Miami to a prestigious military hospital dispensing unsatisfactory care in Washington - died Thursday while on assignment in Liberia. He was 58.
Du Cille suffered a heart attack and collapsed during a hike from a village where he had been covering the Ebola crisis with a reporter, The Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, said in a note to the newsroom. He was driven to a hospital, where he was declared dead.
“We are all heartbroken,” Baron said. “We have lost a beloved colleague and one of the world’s most accomplished photographers.”
In a career that spanned more than 30 years, he joined The Miami Herald in the 1980s before moving to The Post as a picture editor in 1988. He was promoted to director of photography in 2007 but returned to the field as a full-time photojournalist in 2012, according to The Post.
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He won his first Pulitzer for spot news in 1986 with Carol Guzy, also a Herald photographer, for their coverage of the eruption of Colombia’s Nevado del Ruiz volcano in 1985. He won the feature category in 1988 for a series portraying the decay and subsequent rehabilitation of a Miami housing project overrun by crack cocaine.
With Post reporters Dana Priest and Anne Hull, he won a Pulitzer in 2008 for an investigative series on the poor treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The series prompted an outcry from members of Congress and veterans’ advocates and led to several investigations of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care system.
Du Cille was born in Jamaica in 1956. He credited his initial interest in photography to his father, who worked as a newspaper reporter in Jamaica and the United States.
“I always had an interest in journalism, and my father introduced me to the photographer at the small paper where he worked,” he told The Post. “So I just decided in my junior year of high school that this is what I wanted to do, and they gave me a job.”
He studied journalism at Indiana University. He received a master’s from Ohio University.
He is survived by his wife, Nikki Khan, a Post photographer, and two children from a previous marriage.
Recently, he had been covering Ebola patients and those who care for them. In an essay in October, he wrote that he felt compelled to cover the crisis despite the risk of becoming infected.
“He was completely devoted to the story of Ebola, and he was determined to stay on the story despite its risks,” Baron said. “That is the sort of courage and passion he displayed throughout his career.”
His travels to West Africa led Syracuse University to disinvite him in October from participating in a journalism workshop after a student expressed concern.