Winners of the INN Impact Prize for Nonprofit News Photography

Images that tell powerful stories about homelessness, immigration and gun laws captured the top INN Impact Prize for Nonprofit News Photos honoring photographers for their work in 2017.

Photographer Gema Galiana won first place for an image in the Economic Hardship Reporting Project’s series What the Final Moments of Homeless People Can Teach Us. Second prize was awarded to photographer Kathryn Gamble of The Trace, a national publication covering gun violence. Bonnie Arbittier of the Rivard Report, a local news site in San Antonio, won third place.

Galiana, who is based in Los Angeles, made the evocative first-place image in Orange County, California, part of a series to show where homeless people had spent their last hours of life, and where they died. Galiana made the image under a grant from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, a New York-based INN member publication that reports on the effects of economic inequality. The image showed the bench where Janelle Bixler-Mauch, 56, died of a blood clot. Like many chronically homeless people, she died prematurely and outside in an ordinary public place. The project was conceived and researched by writer Amy DePaul and co-published with Capital & Main and OC Weekly.

Contest judges praised the “subtle image of humanity not doing well.”

“This single image brings attention to the realities of the homeless, the gritty and filthy reality. This is not an easy image to look at and that’s the whole point,” wrote judge Blake Sell.

“Of all the images submitted to the contest, this is the one that takes the boldest risk by trying to depict heavily photographed issues such as homelessness differently, and it pays off,” said judge Annabelle Marcovici. “ It speaks to how photographers can show the grit and the sadness and the environment of homelessness without turning homeless people into props.”

“No frustrations yelled, no fists in the air looking for justice, no multitudes of folks advocating. In these days of bold colors, over the top action images, folks showing off for the cameras at gatherings … death is still quiet,” said judge Sharon Farmer. “This is not the usual photo of death.”

Photographer Kathryn Gamble of The Trace won second place for a studio image illustrating a story about black politicians fighting a resurgence of “stand your ground” gun laws. Gamble made side-by-side portraits of Iowa State Representative Ras Smith. In one, he wore his work suit. In the other, he appears in the hoodie he wore on the House floor to protest a proposal authorizing residents to use lethal means to protect themselves when confronting a perceived threat. The judges wrote, “When done well, photojournalism’s job is to bring issues to focus and to evoke, and this image does both beautifully.”

Bonnie Arbittier of the Rivard Report made her winning image at a San Antonio protest of the Trump administration’s decision to end the DACA program for young immigrants. Judges praised the way the visual composition of the crowd shot brought attention to powerful expressions of emotion.

Honorable mentions were awarded to:

  • James Whitlow Delano of the Pulitzer Center for an image of survivors of the violence against drug users in the Philippines.
  • Joseph Rodriguez of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project for an image of a man in the ruins of a home destroyed by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
  • Christopher Tyree of Orb Media for an image of a young boy climbing over plastic debris in an oceanside dump in the Philippines.
  • Paul Ingram of the Tucson Sentinel for an image of a teenager running from the wall he illegally crossed at the Arizona-Mexico border at Nogales.
  • Bonnie Arbitter of the Rivard Report for an image in which a man in a cowboy hat leads a horse dressed as a pegasus for an LGBT pride parade.

“These photographers and newsrooms tell stories through their images that deepen our understanding of public issues, enlist our empathy, and share the joy, sadness and humor of life,” said INN Executive Director Sue Cross. “We salute these winners of the INN Impact Prize for Nonprofit News Photography for both their public service and outstanding visual journalism.”

The winning photographers won awards of $500, $200 and $100 respectively for first, second and third places.

Winners were selected by a panel of three professional news photographers and photo editors based on the editorial and visual impact of the submitted photos.

View the gallery.

About the Judges

Sharon Farmer has been a photojournalist for more than 40 years for The Washington Post, the Smithsonian Institution, The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Urban League, the Brookings Institution, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. She also teaches photojournalism.

Annabelle Marcovici is an independent photographer and photo editor whose work has been featured in The New York Times Lens Blog, The Washington Post and Wired. Marcovici is based in Minneapolis, where she regularly writes and photographs for INN member Twin Cities Daily Planet. She is a recent alumna of the Eddie Adams Workshop.

Blake Sell’s more than 30 years of experience in the photo industry included senior positions at The Associated Press and Getty Images. Working for the Reuters news agency, Sell photographed news, sports and entertainment events in 50 countries and covered the Clinton White House. After moving to the business side of the photo industry, Sell founded Invision, the entertainment images company. He splits his time between New York and Washington as a business consultant for news media organizations.

About INN

The Institute for Nonprofit News is a network of more than 150 nonprofit news media, founded by journalists and community leaders across the country to bring better news coverage and information to thousands of diverse communities. INN is a membership organization that incubates news startups, provides training and services to public service newsrooms and functions as an innovation network, helping members develop new ways to support quality journalism, engage people and serve their communities. INN’s work helps newsrooms bring investigative and civic news to more people, hold the powerful accountable and build participation in public life. More information can be found at