2012 Hillman Prize for Photojournalism | Hillman Foundation

Hillman Prizes

2012 Hillman Prize for Photojournalism

Katie Falkenberg

“A Lasting Toll”
Los Angeles Times

Katie Falkenberg is a photojournalist and multimedia storyteller on contract with the Los Angeles Times. Raised in Ohio, Falkenberg began her career in Washington, D.C., covering the White House and Capitol Hill as a freelance photographer. From 2006 through 2009, she was a staff photographer at The Washington Times, where she began to focus on documenting contemporary issues in America. Falkenberg has worked to tell such stories including the human toll of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia, the thousands of people living without health insurance in the medically vulnerable and impoverished Mississippi Delta, and the plight of families struggling with the economic collapse in California. Her passion is working on these issue-related projects, and she considers it a great privilege and responsibility to tell the stories of people who may not have a chance to be heard otherwise. Her photography and multimedia work have been recognized by Pictures of the Year International, the White House News Photographers Association, the National Press Photographers Association, and the Media That Matters film festival. Falkenberg graduated from Warren Wilson College, in North Carolina, with a degree in Studio Art.

We hear the numbers everyday-unemployment, foreclosures, poverty. But what of the individual families who are desperately trying to hold on to jobs, or those working hard just to be able to stay inside their homes? 

For a year, photographer Katie Falkenberg followed three southern California families still enduring the consequences of the Great Recession. The result, published in the Los Angeles Times, shows that while the numbers may be improving, people continue to face incredible struggles.

Since the downturn, the Long family has moved from a house with a pool, to homelessness. Andrew and Equllia Tucker work three jobs between them to support their family, and still struggle to pay the rent. From the outside, things look okay for the Petersons, who manage to hang on to their large home in an exclusive gated community. But, inside, they survive on food from a local church pantry.

Through still shots and multi-media, Falkenberg shows us how families try to make do in a world turned upside down. Her tender portraits prompted judge Harold Meyerson to call Falkenberg the “Dorothea Lange for our time.”