Teresa Heinz Kerry has many interests, but photojournalism hasn't always been at the top of her list. That was until she studied the pictures of James Nachtwey, a world renowned war photographer for Time magazine and author of three acclaimed books of photographs.
"One does see every day horrible images about everything, and more often than not they crush you," said Mrs. Heinz Kerry, in a telephone interview from Boston last week. "And there may be some elitists who say, 'Well, he's only a photographer.' But he's a soul with an eye and the ability to transform images, to give them meaning beyond just what we see. His work tells a story that can uplift you, and you know you will try to do something after having seen it."
That's why Mr. Nachtwey is one of six recipients of this year's Heinz Awards, being announced today, which are meant to honor not just excellence for its own sake but the humanitarian impulse behind the work.
Established in 1993 in memory of Mrs. Heinz Kerry's late husband, U.S. Sen. John Heinz, the awards also will be presented to Dr. Paul Anastas, the father of "green chemistry"; Dr. William Thomas, a doctor who is revolutionizing the way elderly people live; Bruce Katz, an urban policy expert, and Dr. Leroy Hood, a world-renowned genomic biologist. All will receive $250,000. Elma Holder, a nursing home reformer, will receive the Chairman's Medal, which honors a lifetime body of work.
Mr. Nachtwey couldn't be reached for comment. Mrs. Heinz Kerry said she spoke to him recently as he was en route to Frankfurt, Germany, to photograph wounded soldiers returning from Iraq for a new project. His most recent book, "Inferno," which the late Richard Avedon called "the most painful and beautiful book in the history of photojournalism," documented war victims in Romania, Sudan, Somalia, Bosnia and other Third World countries.Associated Press
Photographer James Nachtwey
Click photo for larger image.
Arts and Humanities: James Nachtwey, global photographer and photojournalist from New York City
Environment: Paul Anastas, Ph.D., chemist and founder and director of the Green Chemistry Institute from Alexandria, Va.
Human Condition: William Thomas, physician and founder and director of the Eden Alternative from Sherburne, N.Y.
Public Policy: Bruce Katz, attorney, urban policy expert and founder of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution from Washington, D.C.
Technology, the Economy and Employment: Leroy Hood, Ph.D., M.D., genomic biologist, inventor and president of the Institute for Systems Biology from Seattle
Chairman's Medal: Elma Holder, founder, National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform
"I think [Mr. Nachtwey] is looking at the full dimension of damage done to a person who has lost an arm or a leg," but whose injuries extend beyond what's visible, she said. "It's about the multi-dimensions of devastation."
The ravages of disease are what motivated Dr. Anastas to begin a project at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the early 1990s that ultimately transformed the chemical industry.
"Instead of designing molecules to fight cancer, I wanted to create molecules that would never cause cancer," he said.
He later founded the Green Chemistry Institute, which promotes a voluntary, nonregulatory approach to environmental improvements. By his persuading hundreds of manufacturers to use "the 12 principles of green chemistry," waste has been eliminated before ever being produced and businesses have profited from increased efficiency and other advantages.
At the consumer level, Dr. Anastas' work can be seen in the increased use of polylactic acid, in biodegradable packaging of fruits and vegetables from Whole Foods to Wal-Mart, and at the political level with the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award, which recognizes technologies that eliminate hazardous chemicals and solvents.
Two recipients of the award are Pittsburghers: Terry Collins, a professor of chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, and Eric Beckman, a professor of engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.
"Pittsburgh is a hub of green chemistry and these two are among the greatest thinkers in the world," Dr. Anastas said.
Pittsburgh and its suburbs also are part of Mr. Katz's vision for building stronger communities. "As the economy restructures, what we're finding is that for states to compete and metropolitan areas to thrive, cities need to be strong," said Mr. Katz, founder of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, one of the premier research institutions in the United States on city and suburban issues.
Speaking on the phone from London, Mr. Katz said he is working at the London School of Economics on a project to help cities recover economically, visiting cities like Turin and Bilbao in Spain, and Sheffield in England, to see what American cities can learn.
"Sheffield is a 'twin city' to Pittsburgh, an aging industrial center with a lot of the same problems. Sheffield's done some amazing things," he said.
Part of revitalization means tearing down past mistakes, and as staff director of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Housing and Urban Affairs and later as a senior policy adviser at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Katz helped create and then implement the Hope VI program, which turned failed public housing projects into vital, livable places.
Mr. Katz's work has helped transform the urban landscape in Ohio, Maine, Minnesota, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.
Unfortunately, Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania have not yet felt the influence of Dr. William Thomas, founder of the Eden Alternative, which has transformed assisted living facilities across the nation and changed the way many health care providers think about aging.
Dr. Thomas' organization has "Edenized" more than 300 nursing homes across the country, where there are not only cheerful decor, gardens, pets and on-site child care, but where the elderly have a say in their daily routines. Moreover, he has created "Green Houses," small community residences that feel homelike.
"The American nursing home is stuck in the 19th century," said Dr. Thomas, in a phone interview from his home in upstate New York. "We need to start thinking of the people in them not as inmates, or diseased and disabled, but as elders of the community, human beings with a capacity for growth and development."
In his Green House model, homes for eight to 10 elderly people have private bedrooms and bathrooms, common eating and socializing areas. Elders play a role in their own care: for example, instead of requiring residents to adhere to a strict schedule for meals, they make decisions that help keep what Dr. Thomas calls "the three plagues" -- loneliness, helplessness and boredom -- at bay.
In Michigan, the governor's office supports his Green House concept, and one is opening outside of Hershey, Dauphin County, Dr. Thomas said. But why not Allegheny County, which has one of the largest populations of elderly?
"I don't know. We haven't found the right people, or they haven't found us," he said.
Of all the awardees, Dr. Hood's work in molecular biotechnology and genomics may have the farthest reach -- but perhaps, for the lay person, is the most difficult to grasp. A pioneer in the emerging field of systems biology, Dr. Hood focuses on how all parts of the body work together instead of looking only at affected areas when determining cures and treatments. His research at the molecular level studies genes and what role the environment plays in causing disease. At the California Institute of Technology, he learned how to sequence proteins, eventually developing a sequencer so sensitive that it led to breakthrough treatments in certain cancers.
As the owner of 14 breakthrough patents in biomedicine, including the DNA sequencer that laid the foundation for the Human Genome Project, Dr. Hood "will probably win a Nobel Prize," said Mrs. Heinz Kerry.
Ms. Holder, founder of the National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, has retired from active advocacy, but will receive a Chairman's Medal for her work in improving long-term care for the elderly. Her organization is considered the pre-eminent advocate for the rights of nearly 2 million residents.
The Heinz Awards will be presented at a private ceremony at Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh on Oct. 2, Mrs. Heinz Kerry said. The last time it was held here was in 2003, but usually the awards take place in Washington.
"It's going to be a good celebration," said Mrs. Heinz Kerry, "and this year I'm going to invite a lot of people who work in those areas covered by the awards. It'll be more celebratory and free-flowing.
"It's nice," she added, "to do it in Pittsburgh."
Mackenzie Carpenter can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1949.