Jeff Widener

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Jeff Widener
Jeff Widener-2.jpg
Widener in 2010
Born (1956-08-11) August 11, 1956 (age 66)
Known forTank Man photograph

Jeff Widener (born August 11, 1956) is an American photographer, best known for his image of the Tank Man confronting a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 which made him a nominated finalist for the 1990 Pulitzer, although he did not win.[1]

Through the years, he has covered assignments in over 100 countries involving civil unrest and wars to social issues. He was the first photojournalist to file digital images from the South Pole. In 1987, he was hired as Associated Press Picture Editor for Southeast Asia where he covered major stories in the region from the Gulf War to the Olympics. Other assignments included East Timor, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Burma, Syria, Jordan, India, Laos, Vietnam, Pakistan and many more.

Widener is now based in Mexico City.


Widener grew up in Southern California where he attended Reseda High School, Los Angeles Pierce College and Moorpark College majoring in photojournalism. In 1974 he received the Kodak Scholastic National Photography Scholarship, beating out 8,000 students from across the United States. The prize included a study tour of East Africa.

In 1978, Widener started as a newspaper photographer in California and later in Nevada and Indiana. At age 25, he accepted a position in Brussels, Belgium as a staff photographer with United Press International. His first foreign assignment was the Solidarity riots in Poland.

  • 2010 – present Freelance based in Hamburg, Germany
  • 1997–2010 The Honolulu Advertiser – Staff Photographer[2]
  • 1995–1997 United Press International Miami – Staff Photographer
  • 1987–1995 Associated Press – Southeast Asia Picture Editor Bangkok, Thailand
  • 1984–1986 The Miami News – Staff photographer
  • 1981–1984 United Press International – Brussels, Belgium – Staff photographer
  • 1980–1981 The Evansville Press – Staff photographer
  • 1979–1980 The Las Vegas Sun – Staff Photographer
  • 1977–1979 The Whittier Daily News -Staff photographer

Tank Man photo[edit]

Widener was tasked to capture the scene of the Tiananmen crackdown on June 5, 1989. He had brought camera equipment and film to the hotel where he later took the photo, but was at the risk of being denied entry by security personnel. He was helped inside by Kirk Martsen. Widener eventually ran out of film, so he asked Martsen to try and find some. Martsen found John Flitcroft, an Australian backpacker in the hotel lobby, and asked him if he had any spare rolls of film, explaining that Widener had run out of film. John said he would give him the roll of film, if he could come up to the hotel room, which overlooked Tiananmen Square. It was this roll of film which Widener used to take the Tank Man photo. Martsen later borrowed Flitcroft's rented bicycle to deliver the photo film to the AP office at the Diplomatic Compound.[3]

Prior to taking the picture, Widener was injured during the night event of June 3, 1989 after a stray rock hit him in the head during a mob scene on the Chang-An Boulevard. His Nikon F3 titanium camera absorbed the blow, saving his life.[4][5]

The "Tank Picture", repeatedly circulated around the globe (except in China, where it is banned), is now widely held to be one of the most recognized photos ever taken. America Online selected it as one of the top ten most famous images of all time.


In addition to being named a finalist for the 1990 Pulitzer Prize in Spot News Photography, Widener has received multiple awards and citations from the Overseas Press Club, DART Award from Columbia University, Harry Chapin Media Award, Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism, the Scoop Award in France, Chia Sardina Award in Italy, National Headliner Award, New York Press Club, Pictures of the Year International, Best of Photojournalism, Atlanta Photojournalism, Belgian Press Photographers Association and the World Press in the Netherlands.[6]


  1. ^ "1990 Pulitzer Prizes". Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  2. ^ Nadine Kam (June 3, 2004). "Honolulu Star-Bulletin Features". Archived from the original on September 5, 2008. Retrieved August 7, 2008.
  3. ^ Witty, Patrick (June 5, 2012). "Tank Man Revisited: More Details Emerge About the Iconic Image". Time. Archived from the original on June 7, 2012. Retrieved June 22, 2012.
  4. ^ Szczepanski, Kallie (June 8, 2008). Eyewitness at Tiananmen Square, 1989 – Interview with Jeff Widener, "Tank Man" Photographer Archived June 5, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, Guide
  5. ^ Patrick Witty (June 3, 2009). "Behind the Scenes: Tank Man of Tiananmen". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 15, 2010. Retrieved September 12, 2010.
  6. ^ "Best of Still Photojournalism 2004". Archived from the original on September 27, 2008. Retrieved August 7, 2008.

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