Sacramento Bee senior photographer Renée C. Byer, a Pulitzer Prize winner in 2007, was named a finalist for the 2013 award.
The Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists were announced Monday. Byer was a finalist in the feature photography category that was won by Javier Manzano, a free-lance photographer, for a photo of two Syrian rebel soldiers. The other finalist, Liz O. Baylen of the Los Angeles Times, was recognized for her documentation of the shattered lives of people entangled in prescription drug abuse.
Byer's entry was "A Grandfather's Sorrow and Love," a series of photographs that accompanied stories by Bee reporter Cynthia Hubert. The photos and stories depicted Napa artist Don Hatfield and his journey to win guardianship of his three grandchildren.
The recently widowed grandfather stepped up to care for his slain daughter's children. The story and photos told of a year of heartbreak for Hatfield. He lost his wife to cancer, and a month later his daughter died from stab wounds allegedly inflicted by her husband.
Hatfield eventually won guardianship of the youngsters.
"To be recognized by my peers and the Pulitzer committee is an extreme honor," Byer said. "I'm really thankful."
Reflecting on the photo series, she said, "My heart goes out to the children. I feel Don has given them a lot of love and support."
The children's father, Todd Winkler, 45, remains in the El Dorado County jail, charged with murder in the February 2012 slaying of their mother and Hatfield's daughter, 37-year-old Rachel Winkler, at their Cameron Park home. He is scheduled for a pre-preliminary hearing in El Dorado Superior Court on May 13, according to court online records.
Byer said the stories and photos on Hatfield and the children did not delve into the criminal proceedings against Todd Winkler so as not to prejudice the case. They focused instead on a grandfather and his grandchildren at a time of extreme loss.
"Renée has a long-standing commitment to telling intimate stories that give her subjects a voice through documentary photography," said Mark Morris, Bee photo editor. "Her evocative images from 'A Grandfather's Sorrow and Love' reveal a loving and determined grandfather who put aside his personal grief to gain custody of his three grandchildren and rebuild their young lives following the violent death of their mother."
Byer won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography in 2007 for "A Mother's Journey," images that chronicled the pain of a single mother and a young son as he lost his battle with cancer.
"Renée's ability to put people at ease so that she can capture their joy, grief or even everyday moments has benefited us and our readers tremendously since she joined The Bee," said Executive Editor Joyce Terhaar.
Byer, who has more than 25 years' experience, has been a staff photographer at The Bee since 2003.
Previously, she received numerous awards, including from the National Press Photographers Association, Pictures of the Year International, Associated Press and Best of the West journalism contest.
JOURNALISMHOW TO HELP A fund has been established to help with household and other costs of raising Don Hatfield's grandchildren.
Wells Fargo Bank
"Rachel's Children's Fund"
Routing Number: 121042882
Account Number: 1658504855 PayPal: Rachelschildrensfund@gmail.com
Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.