Carolyn Cole (born April 24, 1961) is a staff photographer for the Los Angeles Times. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography in 2004, for her coverage of the siege of Monrovia, the capital of Liberia.
Cole graduated from The University of Texas in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in photojournalism. She earned her Master of Arts degree from the School of Visual Communication within the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University. She began her career in 1986 as a staff photographer with the El Paso Herald-Post, a position which she occupied until 1988. She then moved to the San Francisco Examiner for two years, before spending another two years as a freelance photographer in Mexico City, working with newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, Detroit Free Press, and Business Week. In 1992, Cole returned to being a staff photographer, working for The Sacramento Bee, before moving to the Times in 1994.
In 1994, the same year she moved to the Times, she was recognized in their editorial awards for her pictures of the crisis in Haiti. The following year, she was recognized again, this time for her work in Russia.
In 1997, she gained attention for her photographs of dying bank robber Emil Matasareanu, who had been shot after a nationally televised shootout with police. Her evidence was used in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by his family. Her pictures also helped the Times win a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the event. Later that year, she was named Journalist of the Year by the Times Mirror Corporation.
Cole has also had difficulties with the law. In April 2000, she was arrested on felony charges for “throwing deadly missiles” at police during protests in Miami’s “Little Havana,” at the height of the Elián González affair. Her critics alleged that this was an attempt to fire up the crowd in order to gain more shocking pictures. All charges were dropped, though, for lack of evidence.
Cole spent time in Kosovo during the 1999 crisis, and in 2001, spent two months in Afghanistan. In 2002, she received the National Press Photographers Association Newspaper Photographer of the Year award for the first time.
In 2002, Cole covered the beginnings of the prominent siege of Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, which had been occupied by Palestinian militants. Then, on May 2, she made a last-minute decision to join a group of peace activists who entered the building in solidarity with the Palestinians. Over the nine days that followed, she doubled as a news reporter for the Times, filing several stories. She was the only photojournalist in the building itself. The pictures she took earned her a nomination for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize.
In mid-2003, Cole went to Liberia, as rebels surrounded the capital, Monrovia, demanding the resignation of President Charles Taylor. This trip was to earn her the 2004 Pulitzer Prize, “for her cohesive, behind-the-scenes look at the effects of civil war in Liberia, with special attention to innocent citizens caught in the conflict.” She won the 2003 George Polk Award for photojournalism. In 2004, Cole was named both NPPA Newspaper Photographer of the Year for a second time, for her work in both Liberia and Iraq, and the Pictures of the Year International Newspaper Photographer by the University of Missouri’s Missouri School of Journalism. This made her the first person ever to win all three of America’s top photojournalism awards in the same year. During the year, she also spent time in Haiti, witnessing the fall of the regime of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Cole has also received the Robert Capa Gold Medal from the Overseas Press Club in both 2003 and 2004, and won two World Press Photo awards in 2004.
In 2007, she won the NPPA Newspaper Photographer of the Year.