Hearst Photojournalism Championship 2015

Added on by Carolyn Van Houten.

The Hearst Journalism Awards program has done a lot for me these past three years.  Each time, I have come away with new friends, great experiences and a renewed appreciation for the quality of journalism that can be done on a tight deadline in an unfamiliar city.  This year's topic was:

"The demographic of San Francisco has been changing the last couple of years and its impact is being felt by many long-term residents as real estate prices continues to sky-rocket and high tech businesses establish themselves in the city and the rest of the Bay Area. Activists are raising their voices and political agendas are forming. Who are the people, what are their stories and how is this new demographic challenging the way people live in this historic city of San Francisco?"

We had about 36 hours to visualize this issue.  Every one of us took a slightly different approach to the topic, but every single take was very strong.  In my three years at Hearst, I think it was collectively the strongest photojournalism I have seen at the Championships. It was an honor to work alongside Andrew Renneisen, Callaghan O'Hare, Leah Klafczynski, Tim Tai and Zack Wittman.  I hope that they share in my feeling that, although we were competing against each other, we were also working together to give a voice to the people affected by this issue--an issue I think we all came to care deeply about.

Hector Osorio, a student at the City College of San Francisco, stands for a portrait in the Clarion Alley in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco, Calif. on June 2, 2015.  "Power in San Francisco is intense," Osorio said.  The neighborhood has long been known for its art and culture, but many residents fear that, with the increase in evictions of long-time residents as well as the increase in the number of luxury housing options, the Mission will lose its identity.  Many Clarion Alley murals address the gentrification and evictions in the Mission.  

Hector Osorio, a student at the City College of San Francisco, stands for a portrait in the Clarion Alley in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco, Calif. on June 2, 2015.  "Power in San Francisco is intense," Osorio said.  The neighborhood has long been known for its art and culture, but many residents fear that, with the increase in evictions of long-time residents as well as the increase in the number of luxury housing options, the Mission will lose its identity.  Many Clarion Alley murals address the gentrification and evictions in the Mission.  

Marti Sousanis puts her hands over her face as she tells a story in her home in San Francisco, Calif. on June 2, 2015.  Eight years ago, Sousanis was evicted through the Ellis Act, which is a state law giving landlords the right to evict all of the tenants in a building in order to shut down their business, often with the intention of selling the building for a profit.  After getting pushed out of the Mission neighborhood years ago, she now faces eviction for a second time.  Her rent has increased by $650 since January.  Before the increase, Sousanis, who has lived in the city for over fifty years, said she was already living solely on her social security checks.  "Since the increase, I have maxed out two credit cards and am working on a third just paying for food and doctors," she said.  "I don't qualify for food stamps, because my rent is too high.  The irony! ...I had to go to a charity to ask for money for the first time in my life, just so I could avoid eviction for a little while longer.  I am a part of what has made this city the creative, tolerant city that it is.  You are taking me away from my home, my friends, my business, my everything."  

Marti Sousanis puts her hands over her face as she tells a story in her home in San Francisco, Calif. on June 2, 2015.  Eight years ago, Sousanis was evicted through the Ellis Act, which is a state law giving landlords the right to evict all of the tenants in a building in order to shut down their business, often with the intention of selling the building for a profit.  After getting pushed out of the Mission neighborhood years ago, she now faces eviction for a second time.  Her rent has increased by $650 since January.  Before the increase, Sousanis, who has lived in the city for over fifty years, said she was already living solely on her social security checks.  "Since the increase, I have maxed out two credit cards and am working on a third just paying for food and doctors," she said.  "I don't qualify for food stamps, because my rent is too high.  The irony! ...I had to go to a charity to ask for money for the first time in my life, just so I could avoid eviction for a little while longer.  I am a part of what has made this city the creative, tolerant city that it is.  You are taking me away from my home, my friends, my business, my everything."  

Oscar Ramos, 17, stands for a portrait outside of City Hall in San Francisco, Calif. on June 2, 2015.  Ramos was born and raised in the Mission neighborhood.  "My family moved here from Puerto Rico 89 years ago," he said.  "We have lived in the Mission for five generations.  Our community is fading away, because people are getting evicted."

Oscar Ramos, 17, stands for a portrait outside of City Hall in San Francisco, Calif. on June 2, 2015.  Ramos was born and raised in the Mission neighborhood.  "My family moved here from Puerto Rico 89 years ago," he said.  "We have lived in the Mission for five generations.  Our community is fading away, because people are getting evicted."

Ryan Massa stands for a portrait at Craftsman and Wolves, a high-end bakery where he works in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco, Calif., on June 3, 2015.  "[The Mission] is my favorite place to hang out," Massa said.  Expensive housing is not the only concern for long-time Mission residents.  Luxury housing brings with it luxury stores and restaurants and pushes out the pre-existing culture, which several housing advocates, including Teresa Almaguer of the Poder organization, expressed concern about.

Ryan Massa stands for a portrait at Craftsman and Wolves, a high-end bakery where he works in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco, Calif., on June 3, 2015.  "[The Mission] is my favorite place to hang out," Massa said.  Expensive housing is not the only concern for long-time Mission residents.  Luxury housing brings with it luxury stores and restaurants and pushes out the pre-existing culture, which several housing advocates, including Teresa Almaguer of the Poder organization, expressed concern about.

With an affordable housing application in hand, Jerry Chong Liangguo looks at the 400 Grove Street apartment complex in San Francisco, Calif. on June 2, 2015.  Liangguo was told to fill out the application and take it to the apartment complex in order to put his family into a lottery for a chance at moving into one of a handful of affordable apartments in the building.  However, when he arrived at the address to apply, the apartment building was completely under construction.  When he realized that his family could not live here, he said, "I cannot believe this! How can this be?" He could not find anywhere to take the application.  There were unfinished walls on the building, so it was clear to him that the apartment building would not be an option for a long time.  When he called the apartment office, he could not understand what the automated menu options were, because he is still learning English.  He explained that his family currently lives in a very small apartment in the Mission.  He said that it smelled of mold and had rats, which makes him concerned for his son's health.  "I immigrated here for a better life," Liangguo, who is an engineering director who immigrated with his family from China, said.  "If I want to continue living here, it is so expensive.  I am going to have to move soon."  

With an affordable housing application in hand, Jerry Chong Liangguo looks at the 400 Grove Street apartment complex in San Francisco, Calif. on June 2, 2015.  Liangguo was told to fill out the application and take it to the apartment complex in order to put his family into a lottery for a chance at moving into one of a handful of affordable apartments in the building.  However, when he arrived at the address to apply, the apartment building was completely under construction.  When he realized that his family could not live here, he said, "I cannot believe this! How can this be?" He could not find anywhere to take the application.  There were unfinished walls on the building, so it was clear to him that the apartment building would not be an option for a long time.  When he called the apartment office, he could not understand what the automated menu options were, because he is still learning English.  He explained that his family currently lives in a very small apartment in the Mission.  He said that it smelled of mold and had rats, which makes him concerned for his son's health.  "I immigrated here for a better life," Liangguo, who is an engineering director who immigrated with his family from China, said.  "If I want to continue living here, it is so expensive.  I am going to have to move soon."  

Spanky Lee stands for a portrait in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco, Calif. on June 2, 2015.  Originally from Memphis, Lee said that he works as a pimp to pay the rent on his apartment in the neighborhood.  He pays $800 a month for a small rent-controlled apartment in the Mission.  "I wouldn't trade my apartment for a place in heaven," he said. "I have lived here for years.  I didn't like it at first, but this is the coolest spot in San Francisco.  However, now they are starting to tear down the art."

Spanky Lee stands for a portrait in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco, Calif. on June 2, 2015.  Originally from Memphis, Lee said that he works as a pimp to pay the rent on his apartment in the neighborhood.  He pays $800 a month for a small rent-controlled apartment in the Mission.  "I wouldn't trade my apartment for a place in heaven," he said. "I have lived here for years.  I didn't like it at first, but this is the coolest spot in San Francisco.  However, now they are starting to tear down the art."

Roberto Mendez Cruz stands for a portrait in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco, Calif. on June 2, 2015.  Cruz is a roofer and carpenter who often works in the Mission, but cannot afford to live there.  "San Francisco is super expensive," he said.  "I did not realize coming from Los Angeles."

Roberto Mendez Cruz stands for a portrait in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco, Calif. on June 2, 2015.  Cruz is a roofer and carpenter who often works in the Mission, but cannot afford to live there.  "San Francisco is super expensive," he said.  "I did not realize coming from Los Angeles."

Daniel Dupont watches as Roberto Solarzano gets a kiss from Dupont's dog Mandy while they sit on the stoop of the house Dupont used to live in with his wife in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco, Calif. on June 3, 2015.  Dupont and Solarzano are currently homeless.  Dupont's wife died two months ago, leaving him to care for her dog, Mandy.  Dupont said he loves Mandy as a way to keep loving his wife.  Solarzano has lived in the Mission for 44 years.  "Even if you have a job, it doesn't mean you can afford to live here," he said.

Daniel Dupont watches as Roberto Solarzano gets a kiss from Dupont's dog Mandy while they sit on the stoop of the house Dupont used to live in with his wife in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco, Calif. on June 3, 2015.  Dupont and Solarzano are currently homeless.  Dupont's wife died two months ago, leaving him to care for her dog, Mandy.  Dupont said he loves Mandy as a way to keep loving his wife.  Solarzano has lived in the Mission for 44 years.  "Even if you have a job, it doesn't mean you can afford to live here," he said.

Supporters of the Mission Moratorium gathered in City Hall in San Francisco, Calif. on June 2, 2015.  Making a plea to his fellow San Francisco Board of Supervisors members, District 9's David Campos said, "How would you feel to hear from your constituents and hear how powerless they feel?" Only approximately nine percent of the 500 housing units built in the Mission district in the last five years have been affordable.

Supporters of the Mission Moratorium gathered in City Hall in San Francisco, Calif. on June 2, 2015.  Making a plea to his fellow San Francisco Board of Supervisors members, District 9's David Campos said, "How would you feel to hear from your constituents and hear how powerless they feel?" Only approximately nine percent of the 500 housing units built in the Mission district in the last five years have been affordable.

At nearly midnight on June 2, 2015, Alondra Aragon, center, led a chant in City Hall in San Franciso, Calif. immediately after the Mission Moratorium was voted on.  The final vote was 7-4 in favor of the moratorium, but the measure needed nine votes to be passed as an "interim emergency ordinance."  Aragon and dozens of other Mission Moratorium supporters had filled the room for over eight hours that day.  Of the supporters, San Francisco Board of Supervisors Member John Avalos said, "The rich fabric of the Mission is what is here today."  Katy Tang, the supervisor from District 4, said, "This was incredibly moving for me, although at times emotional, very inspirational." 

At nearly midnight on June 2, 2015, Alondra Aragon, center, led a chant in City Hall in San Franciso, Calif. immediately after the Mission Moratorium was voted on.  The final vote was 7-4 in favor of the moratorium, but the measure needed nine votes to be passed as an "interim emergency ordinance."  Aragon and dozens of other Mission Moratorium supporters had filled the room for over eight hours that day.  Of the supporters, San Francisco Board of Supervisors Member John Avalos said, "The rich fabric of the Mission is what is here today."  Katy Tang, the supervisor from District 4, said, "This was incredibly moving for me, although at times emotional, very inspirational." 

Sylvia Smith poses for a portrait in her bedroom in her Mission neighborhood apartment in San Francisco, Calif. on June 2, 2015.  Smith has lived in the apartment for 41 years, but suddenly in the last year her landlord, Anna Swain, has begun threatening her with eviction.  Swain accused Smith of running a "1-800-SEX-TALK" operation and of selling drugs out of the apartment.  Of the accusations, she said, "I don't even remember how to have sex!" These threats have been the source of a wrongful eviction lawsuit against Swain.  Smith, 72, lives in the apartment with her grandson.  "When I moved here, I paid $60 a month," Smith said.  "Now she wants $5,000. I cry in my apartment all day.  I do not cry because I am sad.  I cry because I am so angry."  Her apartment has exposed wires, nails, uneven floors and soiled carpets.  "My doctor wants to put me in the hospital for two weeks, because I have panic attacks from the stress of this that he thinks could lead to a heart attack," she said.  

Sylvia Smith poses for a portrait in her bedroom in her Mission neighborhood apartment in San Francisco, Calif. on June 2, 2015.  Smith has lived in the apartment for 41 years, but suddenly in the last year her landlord, Anna Swain, has begun threatening her with eviction.  Swain accused Smith of running a "1-800-SEX-TALK" operation and of selling drugs out of the apartment.  Of the accusations, she said, "I don't even remember how to have sex!" These threats have been the source of a wrongful eviction lawsuit against Swain.  Smith, 72, lives in the apartment with her grandson.  "When I moved here, I paid $60 a month," Smith said.  "Now she wants $5,000. I cry in my apartment all day.  I do not cry because I am sad.  I cry because I am so angry."  Her apartment has exposed wires, nails, uneven floors and soiled carpets.  "My doctor wants to put me in the hospital for two weeks, because I have panic attacks from the stress of this that he thinks could lead to a heart attack," she said.