Amateur photographer won Pulitzer Prize for hotel fire photo

From the Associated Press

Arnold Hardy, an amateur photographer who was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his gripping 1946 photo of a woman falling from a burning hotel, has died. He was 85.

Hardy died Wednesday at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta of complications following hip surgery, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

He died just two days before the 61st anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1946, fire at Atlanta’s Winecoff Hotel -- a disaster that killed 119 people, more than any other hotel fire in U.S. history.


Hardy was a 24-year-old Georgia Tech graduate student and amateur photographer when he took the photo, using his Speed Graphic and his last flashbulb to capture the image.

It shows the woman falling feet first, her skirt flying up and her white underpants stark against the hotel.

Hardy sold the photo to the Associated Press for $300, and it became the defining image of the fire.

Although initial accounts said the woman fell to her death, the 1993 book “The Winecoff Fire” by Sam Heys and Allen B. Goodwin identified the woman as a survivor, Daisy McCumber, 41.

She died in 1992.

Hardy later turned down a job from the Associated Press, instead founding an X-ray equipment business.

“It wasn’t just a lucky snapshot,” his son, Glen Hardy, told the Journal-Constitution.


“It was technically a very complicated photograph to take. He had to consider lighting, temperature. He was working hard to get that photograph, to capture a moving object in pitch black darkness. He tweaked his camera to its limits.”

Hardy’s son added, “One thing he took great pride in is that after his photograph was published worldwide, fire codes were changed all over the country and maybe the world.”

Hardy is also survived by his wife, a daughter and three stepsons.