2019 CatchLight Local Finalists: Eight Photographers Telling Important Stories of Economic Disparity in the Bay Area

CatchLight Local’s pilot program aims to fortify creative community engagement practices and produce nuanced visual stories to better equip communities and policymakers to understand problems and pursue viable solutions to the economic crisis facing the region.

One-third of residents in the Bay Area — nearly 2 million people — struggle to make ends meet. According to a study conducted in the San Francisco Bay Area by the Brookings Institution, families on the high end of the income spectrum earn 11 times more than families on the low end — making it the third most unequal region in the U.S. 

CatchLight Local is an initiative established in partnership with The GroundTruth Project and made possible by the support from The Kresge Foundation, The Neda Nobari Foundation, and the LSP Family Foundation.  

“While we were able to award three fellowships for our pilot program, it was evident from the application process that there is a critical need for more visual storytelling at the local level and an abundance of visual storytellers doing incredible community-based work," says CatchLight CEO Elodie Maillet Storm. “We want to make sure to highlight this work.”

Read on to meet the 2019 CatchLight Local finalists — eight photographers working to address important local issues through nuanced visual storytelling and learn more about their proposed projects. 


Meet David Rodriguez Munoz:
David is a Central Coast based freelance photographer from Salinas, California. It is his intention to reveal the human condition by using a moment of light to freeze a moment of emotion. David seeks conditions of pathos, beauty, wonder, joy, stress, struggle, or despair in which to seek the "decisive moment" of recognition of his subject, as well as to capture that image. 

The Hands that Feed Us — David Rodriguez Munoz    This project will focus on the lives of field workers and their children. My goal is to find and document the lives of these parents and children, and focusing on the issue of child labor that the kids are faced with in order to help their parents survive in anyway possible. I believe I can find families familiar with children in the workforce. My hope is that my photos can provide exposure of the issue of child labor that is affecting immigrant workers in Salinas, CA to finally break this cycle of poverty.

The Hands that Feed Us — David Rodriguez Munoz

This project will focus on the lives of field workers and their children. My goal is to find and document the lives of these parents and children, and focusing on the issue of child labor that the kids are faced with in order to help their parents survive in anyway possible. I believe I can find families familiar with children in the workforce. My hope is that my photos can provide exposure of the issue of child labor that is affecting immigrant workers in Salinas, CA to finally break this cycle of poverty.

Meet Adrian Burell
Adrian is an avid storyteller from Oakland, California. He is a filmmaker and producer with a BFA in Film from the San Francisco Art Institute, currently perusing an MFA at Stanford University. Adrian was the producer and casting director on the dramatic feature Licks (2013) that premiered at SXSW and was distributed internationally by Blue Sky Media. Adrian is the director of a documentary photo and video project titled Picture A Change, documenting people and communities around the world fighting for change. Adrian loves to tell stories through his passion for photography and filmmaking, and is always looking for the next story to tell.

Grandma’s Hands   Last century, the Great Migration brought thousands of refugees from the Deep South to California, fleeing poverty and state-sponsored violence to find a place to shake the yoke of white supremacy.  My grandmother, one Black Oaklander approaching her centennial, has a paradoxical relationship to that history. Though she’s a witness and testament to it, sometimes she’d rather not remember. Now, she and others are twice displaced — once by Jim Crow and again by the erasure of a very Black Oakland they worked to build. This project will collect their stories and preserve a part of Oakland before it disappears.

Grandma’s Hands

Last century, the Great Migration brought thousands of refugees from the Deep South to California, fleeing poverty and state-sponsored violence to find a place to shake the yoke of white supremacy.

My grandmother, one Black Oaklander approaching her centennial, has a paradoxical relationship to that history. Though she’s a witness and testament to it, sometimes she’d rather not remember. Now, she and others are twice displaced — once by Jim Crow and again by the erasure of a very Black Oakland they worked to build. This project will collect their stories and preserve a part of Oakland before it disappears.

Meet Salgu Wissmath
Salgu is a nonbinary photographer based in Sacramento, CA. They are available for freelance work in Northern California and can travel for assignments. Previously, Salgu spent several years teaching elementary school in Mississippi, California, and South Korea before entering grad school at Ohio University, where they recently completed a Master of Arts in Photography. Their current work explores the intersections of mental health, queer identity, and faith from a conceptional documentary approach.They are dedicated to decolonizing the field of photography through their personal work, which focuses on stories by and for people of color and the queer community.

Community Care (working title) — Salgu Wissmath   In a state where more than 129,000 people experience homelessness in a given night, according to 2018 data collected by HUD, Californians want to know which programs out there are successfully supporting people experiencing housing instability. Following a solutions journalism approach, this youth-led video project will highlight a community-centered model that has already succeeded in other cities. The film will follow a Host Home pilot program that is starting up in California’s capital, as it matches transitional age youth in need of housing with community members who are able to offer open rooms in their own homes.

Community Care (working title) — Salgu Wissmath

In a state where more than 129,000 people experience homelessness in a given night, according to 2018 data collected by HUD, Californians want to know which programs out there are successfully supporting people experiencing housing instability. Following a solutions journalism approach, this youth-led video project will highlight a community-centered model that has already succeeded in other cities. The film will follow a Host Home pilot program that is starting up in California’s capital, as it matches transitional age youth in need of housing with community members who are able to offer open rooms in their own homes.

Meet Matthew O'Brien
Matthew is a photographer, filmmaker, and author of No Dar Papaya: Photographs of Colombia 2003-2013. Through combinations of imagery, text, and sound, he focuses on telling compelling stories that move people and have the potential to improve conditions for people and the planet. A common thread in all of his work, whether exploring ranching and public education in his native California, displacement and migration in Myanmar, or indigenous communities in Colombia, is beauty and affirmation. Based in the Bay Area, Matthew studied zoology at U.C. Berkeley and was a Fulbright scholar in Colombia. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Slate, Vice, Mother Jones, and The Guardian, and is in public collections including The Library of Congress.

Still Looking For Hope — Matthew O’Brien   Many factors contribute to rising economic inequality in California. Stories about rising rents, the influx of tech workers, evictions, and homelessness abound in the media, but there are deeper, historical and systemic factors at play which are often left out of the discussion. Perhaps the most important yet least discussed of these is education. I want to explore the role of unequal access to education as a contributor to today’s rising economic inequality through a project that revisits former students of mine from the Oakland public schools.

Still Looking For Hope — Matthew O’Brien

Many factors contribute to rising economic inequality in California. Stories about rising rents, the influx of tech workers, evictions, and homelessness abound in the media, but there are deeper, historical and systemic factors at play which are often left out of the discussion. Perhaps the most important yet least discussed of these is education. I want to explore the role of unequal access to education as a contributor to today’s rising economic inequality through a project that revisits former students of mine from the Oakland public schools.

Meet Nathan Weyland
Nathan is a 15-year resident of the Bay Area with a bachelor's degree in Photojournalism from San Francisco State University. His work on personal projects is centered around environment, health, infrastructure, agriculture, adventure, and fill assignments.

Start a Conversation — Nathan Weyland   Income inequality is acutely visible in my neighborhood of West Oakland. The pressures of gentrification, homelessness, overcrowding and a history of racial prejudice are weighing down on my community, but these issues cannot be resolved through bureaucracy alone. Only storytelling, with its unique capacity to induce empathy, can create the emotional space necessary for dialogue between radically different groups with different perspectives. By providing the space and time for this dialogue, this project dares to hope for novel solutions to these entrenched and common problems.

Start a Conversation — Nathan Weyland

Income inequality is acutely visible in my neighborhood of West Oakland. The pressures of gentrification, homelessness, overcrowding and a history of racial prejudice are weighing down on my community, but these issues cannot be resolved through bureaucracy alone. Only storytelling, with its unique capacity to induce empathy, can create the emotional space necessary for dialogue between radically different groups with different perspectives. By providing the space and time for this dialogue, this project dares to hope for novel solutions to these entrenched and common problems.

Meet Manny Crisostomo
Multimedia photojournalist Manny Crisostomo is a native of Guam and is perhaps best known on the island for his stunning photographs documenting the lives and culture of the Chamorro people.  His keen eye and extensive photography work for almost 30 years have won him numerous awards and accolades, including the Pulitzer Prize in feature photography, which he was awarded in 1989.

Teachers in Crisis — Manny Crisostomo   The San Francisco Bay Area housing crisis has been especially tough for teachers. Teachers earning an average salary in nearly 90 percent of school districts in the Bay Area did not earn enough to rent an affordable two-bedroom apartment let alone buy a home. This is just one statistic, one grim media report in a long list of the economic hardships teachers have to endure to work in the communities they serve. This project as about teachers and their stories of financial austerity and the sacrifices they make in their day-to-day lives to pursue their passion and love of teaching.

Teachers in Crisis — Manny Crisostomo

The San Francisco Bay Area housing crisis has been especially tough for teachers. Teachers earning an average salary in nearly 90 percent of school districts in the Bay Area did not earn enough to rent an affordable two-bedroom apartment let alone buy a home. This is just one statistic, one grim media report in a long list of the economic hardships teachers have to endure to work in the communities they serve. This project as about teachers and their stories of financial austerity and the sacrifices they make in their day-to-day lives to pursue their passion and love of teaching.

Meet Deanne Fitzmaurice
As a Pulitzer Prize winning editorial and commercial photographer and filmmaker, San Francisco-based Deanne Fitzmaurice is most known for her unique ability to establish trust and to discover and convey personal, intimate and emotional stories through images. Fitzmaurice, a Nikon Ambassador, is an assignment photographer with publications including National Geographic, ESPN, and many other respected outlets. Deanne also works with foundations and non-profits including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lucile Packard Foundation to tell their stories. She is a photography instructor at Stanford University Continuing Studies and is a co-founder of Think Tank Photo. Deanne is represented by National Geographic Image Collection.

Soul of the Mission — Deanne Fitzmaurice   My project is a photographic documentation of the intersection of Latinx culture and Tech culture in the Mission District of San Francisco, telling the visual story in the 8 blocks from 16th Street to 24th Street, primarily along Mission Street and Valencia Street. My hope is to bring attention to what is at stake looking through the lens of culture, history, economics, society and immigration into the social fabric of San Francisco’s oldest neighborhood, a microcosm of what is happening as gentrification and income inequality sweeps across America.

Soul of the Mission — Deanne Fitzmaurice

My project is a photographic documentation of the intersection of Latinx culture and Tech culture in the Mission District of San Francisco, telling the visual story in the 8 blocks from 16th Street to 24th Street, primarily along Mission Street and Valencia Street. My hope is to bring attention to what is at stake looking through the lens of culture, history, economics, society and immigration into the social fabric of San Francisco’s oldest neighborhood, a microcosm of what is happening as gentrification and income inequality sweeps across America.

Meet Lacy Atkins:
Lacy Atkins is a Pulitzer Prize winner and a two time finalist with over 30 years of experience as a visual storyteller. She now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and contracts with non-profits such as the Innocence Project and Teach For America.  She has been on staff at the San Francisco Chronicle, Associated Press, Los Angeles Times and part of the USA TODAY Network, the Tennessean. Her work has been featured in various magazines such as Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated as well as on display at the Newseum in Washington D.C. and exhibited at the Visa pour L'Image in Perpignan, France.

Trans Disproportionate — Lacy Atkins   With the country’s highest population of transgender people, San Francisco has taken a leading role in creating policies, services, and support for this historically marginalized population. Despite this progress, transgender people in San Francisco continue to face widespread discrimination, oftentimes traumatically so, especially if they are people of color. I aim to use my lens as a longtime photojournalist and visual storyteller to widen the scope of awareness on the inequalities that transgender people continue to face in the city that purport to open its arms to them.

Trans Disproportionate — Lacy Atkins

With the country’s highest population of transgender people, San Francisco has taken a leading role in creating policies, services, and support for this historically marginalized population. Despite this progress, transgender people in San Francisco continue to face widespread discrimination, oftentimes traumatically so, especially if they are people of color. I aim to use my lens as a longtime photojournalist and visual storyteller to widen the scope of awareness on the inequalities that transgender people continue to face in the city that purport to open its arms to them.