Times of great upheaval often produce the most meaningful art — or maybe it’s the other way around: In tough times, we rely more heavily on art to make sense of the madness. Bit o’ both, probably.

Regardless, 2020 has been a doozy of a year, and a group of local students — from preschoolers to college students — set out to document their experiences of this annus horribilis for a Pandemic Photojournalism Contest organized by the Humboldt County Office of Education and the Arts and Creativity Initiative.

More than 40 participating students were challenged to “notice what catches their eye in this new environment” of school closures, illness and social unrest and to write about “how they’re feeling about what they’re seeing,” as local arts educator Bill Funkhouser put it in his instructions.

The winners of the contest were announced today, and with permission, the Outpost is reproducing those images here.

Submissions were adjudicated by a group of 10 art educators and enthusiasts, and the photographers behind the top choice in each category will receive $100 from Patterson/Conners Insurance Services. A special winner was chosen by Ellis Art to receive a $50 gift certificate to Ellis Art. 


College-Level Winner: Tehila Horowitz

Photo by Tehila Horowitz

Horowitz writes:

This photo tells the story of frustration, of being pushed to your limit mentally. At this point in my life I had been quarantined for longer than six months. I had not been able to see any friends (as my family is high-risk) and spent most [of] my days studying to become a nurse.

During this time, I felt strained, worn out, like a former version of me. The spark in my eyes have dulled and I no longer feel young but aged. My mind wanders without my control. I find myself constantly touching my face to see if I can bring myself back.

One “normal” thing that I really miss has been comfort from friends, physical touch such as hugs and holding hands. I am grateful for nature and the feeling of the elements on my skin; it helps to ground me.

You can see in the photo that a blue sky envelops me. The intense blue color in a way compliments my breakdown.

The thing I want people to know about my photo is that it is okay to fall apart. COVID-19 and quarantine are a cruel punishment that takes away everything that makes us human: connection, physical touch and socializing in general. Breakdowns are normal!


High School-Level Winner: Ari Alter

Photo by Ari Alter

Alter writes:

This photo was taken on September 24th outside of the Eureka Court House. This photo tells the story of how protesting has changed in the midst of a pandemic. It also tells the story of the tense time that our country is facing at this time.

My life was different during this time because not only was I experiencing my first protest, but I was also experiencing how large groups interact during the pandemic. During this time, I felt hopelessness and anger, and you can see this in the photo by how I, as the photographer, am marching with others to demand justice and equality.

One normal thing that I really miss is being able to go to events like these without masks or any fears of getting sick. I am grateful that I am able to be a part of change. The one thing I would like people to know about my photo is that it shows how protests have changed in the midst of a pandemic, focusing on how everyone in this picture is social distancing from each other.


Grades 6-8 Winner: Avery Packer

Photo by Avery Packer

Packer writes:

Generations of Change. “I’ve seen so much in my ninety ninety years of living yet I still see the beauty in nature and have missed it oh so much during this pandemic.”


Grades 3-5 Winner: Amaya Teraoka

Photo by Amaya Teraoka.

Teraoka writes:

This photo was taken on October 23, 2020 at Dow’s Prairie School (in McKinleyville CA). It shows the story of how we (all of us) have to stand six feet apart in these unexpected times.

My life was different in this time because I can’t just go to my friend’s house or go to school; you have to wear a mask and stand six feet apart.

During this time, I felt a little lonely and I felt I was trapped in a small ball and I could not be free and you can see that because I chose to take the picture on a dark day.

One “normal” thing that I really miss has been the ability to do whatever I wanted and not being trapped in the ball. But I am grateful that I get to spend so much time with my family and you can see that because I chose a very clear day to take [this phote] on.

The thing I want people to know about my photo is that no matter what happens we always, always find a way to make it through.


Preschool-Grade 2-Level Winner: Indiana Jensen

Photo by Indiana Jensen

Jensen writes:

This photo was taken on 10/3/20 at Jacoby Creek School in Arcata.

This photo tells the story of my cousin Julia and I during the Covid-19 pandemic. During this photo, we felt sad because we had to social distance and wear masks while around each other.

My life has been different during the pandemic because I have been homeschooled and I don’t get to play with my friends. I really miss them.

The thing I want people to know about my photo is that I miss Julia and I cannot wait for the pandemic to be over so we can play all of the time!


Special Recognition: Stella Saba

Photo by high-schooler Stella Saba

Saba writes:

This photo was taken on October 20th 2020 in the Ku’ wah-dah-wilth Restoration Area at Potawot Health Village in Arcata, CA.

This photo tells the story of the impact that single-use personal protective equipment has on the environment, including masks, gloves, and chemicals like hand sanitizer and bleach.

I am grateful for the time to reflect upon myself and my identity, as well as connect with nature; you can see that in this photo because I captured this image while on a walk in an area that is spiritually meaningful to me.

The thing I want people to know about my photo is that though we are hurting as a people, we need to direct our energy into diverting that hurt from falling on the planet. The health of the environment directly relates to the health of the community and the individual.


You can see every photograph submitted for the contest on the Arts and Creativity Initiative website