Eviction unworthy of U.S. values, says prize-winning author

By Evan Hong


Matthew Desmond speaks to audience members about the ongoing eviction and poverty crisis in the United States. © 2017 Evan Hong

The issues regarding poverty and eviction of poor families in the United States do not resemble true American values, an urban sociologist says.

“By no American value is this situation justified,” says Matthew Desmond. “Shouldn’t access to a decent, formal home be a part of what it means to be an American?”

Desmond, a sociology professor at Princeton University, spoke at the Schofield Auditorium on the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire campus Thursday night. A sold-out crowd of nearly 600 people gathered to hear Desmond speak about the issues highlighted in his newest book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.

Desmond detailed his experiences following poverty stricken families as they struggled to find homes in the Milwaukee area due to the eviction crisis.

He conducted a “Milwaukee Area Renters Study” on over 1,000 households and over 100,000 eviction cases to record the characteristics and reasoning behind the high rate of evictions. Desmond also spent time in the impoverished areas himself, spending five months living in a trailer park to get a better understanding of the lives of those renters.

One family he followed in particular, was that of a woman named Arleen, and her two sons, Jori and Jafaris.

Arleen’s family struggled for months to find a place to live, as she was using around 80 percent of her income to pay the family’s rent. Desmond says that most poor renting families devote over half of their income to their housing.

While reading from a letter written by Arleen to Desmond, he shared a quote from Arleen herself describing her poverty-stricken life.

“My soul is messed up. I wish my life was different,” Arleen said.

Desmond said that a major reason for Arleen’s struggle is due to the fact that she was taking care of her kids. One of her son’s attended five different schools between his seventh and eighth grade year.

“Eviction chances triple if you live with kids,” Desmond said.

He also emphasized the fact that gender can play a role in the eviction of renters.

“Eviction is the feminine equivalent to incarceration,” Desmond said.

Throughout his study, Desmond said he found that other factors of the high eviction rates are due to race, along with criminal records and prior incarceration.

Due to these issues, landlords are not hesitant to evict their tenants. Desmond said that landlords in the Milwaukee area evict 40 people a day, while 1 in 8 renters are evicted in Milwaukee every two years.

Brent Jensen, an audience member at the forum, says that he is surprised to see that the levels of inequality behind the eviction crisis has not changed in recent years, but believes that a change is possible.

“If we bring people together from different disciplines, we can fix this issue,” Jensen said.

Desmond believes that creating affordable housing can be a solution to the eviction problems throughout the nation. A study shows that nearly three-fourths of renting families below the poverty line receive no housing assistance.

“Being evicted starts on the ground, and ends on the ground,” Desmond said. We cannot fix poverty in America without fixing housing.”

Desmond has launched a website called justshelter.org to raise awareness about the cost of living and other aspects of the eviction and poverty crises in America. He hopes that one day, the United States escape the issues of poverty and everybody can live in their homes without worry.

“The home is the center of life,” Desmond said. “Imagine if every family in America had a decent, formal place to live.”





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Job Shadow | Anna Bjorkstrand Photography

As a creative by nature, I am not necessarily drawn to a job where I’d be stuck at a desk all day. I like the idea of being able to work in beautiful locations that are a source of constant inspiration, as well as not being confined to just one spot. I’ve always been drawn to photography. I see it as an outlet to capture emotion, events or significant moments in one’s life. For that reason, I thought that shadowing a professional photographer would be an interesting experience.


JobShadowPhoto | Gretchen Reese

©2017 Gretchen Reese | Anna Bjorkstrand shooting a high-school senior photo session in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


Anna Bjorkstrand has been a professional photographer for 20 years, shooting everything from weddings to senior photos. Her absolute favourite thing to shoot are high-school senior photo sessions. “I just love how sweet and innocent they are at 17,” says Bjorkstrand. “Shooting images with people like that and really connecting is one of my favourite things about my job.” Anna was able to create some of the most beautiful images, even if her subject was incredibly camera shy. She often said that forming a connection and trust between herself and her subject is extremely important. A subject that feels awkward in front of the camera is often going to translate as a forced image in the post-shooting edit process.


When it comes to the editing process, Anna is quite particular in that she will not do a mass edit for senior sessions. “Once you pay for the images, you own them,” she said. The odds of liking images are about 5 in every 100 photos, this is considered a high percentage. With so many images taken, often near 250 images every 30 minutes, it’s nearly impossible to edit so many images from multiple shoots – each with a different subject. This post-production process even adds an element of personalization to the photos, it allows for the subject to make the edits they like so long as they still give the image credits to Anna Bjorkstrand Photography.


Job Shadow AnnaB | Gretchen Reese

©2017 Gretchen Reese | Anna Bjorkstrand photographing a high-school senior session in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


For as long as Anna has been shooting, she started with film to the now digital camera equipment she uses today. When shooting events, many people tend to look at Pinterest boards to serve as inspiration for the photographer. Yet, even though the idea of a picture perfect event (especially weddings) can be on the forefront of the mind, “You can kiss your Pinterest boards goodbye,” Bjorkstrand said. “You’ll maybe get two photos that turn out like your inspiration board – I will capture your event, not your Pinterest inspiration.” This gives an eye into the process behind event shoots – not everything is picture perfect.


annaBjobshadow | Gretchen Reese

©2017 Gretchen Reese | Anna Bjorkstrand shooting photos from a senior session in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


In terms of equipment, it depends on the type of subject that you want to photograph, as each lens can be quite different. If street photography is something you’re interested in, a 2.8mm lens could be one to look at investing in. These lenses typically have a high depth of field, and do tend to run a bit higher with prices. A wide angle lens tends to be the best option for events, as they can capture the most in an image. Some lenses can range in price as high as $10,000. These lenses often have an image stabilizer inside, as well as manual settings instead of the basic auto settings. The biggest lesson to learn with investing in equipment is simply to do your research. Just because you have an expensive lens, does not mean it’ll do exactly what you’d like it to do.


AnnaB Job Shadow | Gretchen Reese

©2017 Gretchen Reese | Anna Bjorkstrand reviewing images from a senior session in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


SOUNDCLOUD AUDIO BIT: https://soundcloud.com/gretchen-reese/annab-photo-interview-audio

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Learning Log #2

Before joining this Beginning Journalism course I had no idea what a proper cutline was. I knew photos had captions, of course. I grew up thinking that pictures were only meant to have “captions,” and when we write those captions we can basically do it like anyone does with an Instagram picture or another picture they might post onto social media.

I have always been fascinated with photography journalism. In fact, when I was in high school I was the copy editor of our yearbook, along with head photographer. So, my responsibilities were taking pictures, and then creating a “caption” for them for the yearbook. I guess I didn’t realize there was a whole process to creating those descriptions to go under those pictures. If I had known what I knew now, I can imagine that my writing and photography would’ve looked a lot more professional.

When I did my photography project for this class, we were required to take pictures and provide a cutline on each picture we took. I decided to do mine on an art show that was being featured at a local coffee shop, that many students went to. For my photos, I thought that by simply stating what was happening in the photo was good enough for a caption, but it was not. A proper cutline needs more detail, it needs the names and as much shortened information you can put in without overwhelming the reader. You want to make yourself appear credible as a photo journalist so that’s why the facts are needed in the cutline. After reading Professor Larson’s feedback on my cutlines from the photography project, and job shadow project I know what I need to work harder on. I also am hoping to set up a meeting time with the student assistant, Sammi, to discuss more in depth what I should work on with my cutlines.

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Independent filmmaker offers story of his success

By Lucas Semb


Miguel Coyula interatcs with UW – Eau Claire students during a post-presentation Q&A. Many students had questions about his talent editing video backgrounds. © 2017 Lucas Semb

Award winning independent filmmaker Miguel Coyula, of Cuba, spoke last night at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire as part of the school’s Latin American Study Week. The Cuba native touched on his start in filmmaking and what has led to his success today.

Some credit his success to his dedication on creating his films with small budgets, which forced him to get the most out of his resources at hand. In fact, Coyula’s first feature story took him two years to complete, but cost him only $2000.

Some credit his success to his early years, where he made his videos completely with VHS camcorders, and no such thing as computer editing.

All these helped him get to where he is now, however, his success should be accredited to his clever mindset when it comes to independent filmmaking.

“To me, if you want to be an independent filmmaker, you need to be willing to take on ideas that can’t be in mainstream media.”

Coyula says this can be hard to do In Cuba, where government censorship limits your options. His way around it?

“I’m not part of the Cuban society. That’s why I’m over here in America showing my films. They can’t limit you over here.”

Coyula said he made the decision to remove himself from Cuban society after a film he made caught the attention of the Cuban government. A subject Coyula interviewed in the film was critical of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, leading to the government keeping close tabs on the filmmaker.

“You have to be willing to pay this price, but it’s worth it because you are happy doing what you do.”

One person who wasn’t willing to pay the price was one of Coyula’s music producers for the film. He was ordered by his boss to write an appeal letter to the government, otherwise he would lose his job. Coyula shared with the crowd of roughly 75 people that this letter stated he did not allow Coyula to use his music.

Besides giving himself the opportunity to freely produce independent films by spending most of his time in America, he has also given himself the opportunity to shoot good films by trespassing. Yes, trespassing.

“We had to sneak into the back side of this building once, avoiding the guards out front. But it’s worth it to get the shots you need for your film.”

These sorts of courageous acts from Coyula caught the crowd’s attention as well. One attendee, 19-year-old Eau Claire student Seth Leavens, spoke highly of Coyula afterwards.

“I was very impressed by how much dedication he puts into his work…even with all the dangers associated with making his films, he stated he feels like he needs to do it. I think that’s very admirable.”

Leavens didn’t stop there, as the high praise for Coyula continued when he was asked what he enjoyed most of the short films.

“I enjoyed his explanations of how he edited his films and did all of his visual effects. It was cool to see how his shots started and how he finished them.”

Coyula wrapped up the presentation by telling the group that he is currently working on another film, a sci-fi film, which has been in the works for five years now. When asked what’s next for him, Coyula said he is only focused on finishing his current work.

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Coffee shop attracts many with modern vibes

By Gretchen Reese

Eau Claire Downtown Coffee (ECDC) is a popular spot to enjoy specialty coffee drinks in a modern space. The coffee shop is attached to The Lismore Hotel and is located on Barstow Street in downtown Eau Claire.

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Chippewa Falls hosts 15th annual Oktoberfest

By Grant Geier

Chippewa Falls held their 15th annual Oktoberfest over the weekend.  There were a variety of attractions, events, and food for those of all ages to enjoy.

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Towers South construction begins at UW-Eau Claire campus

By Ben Petersen

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire began renovation construction on one of the campus dorms, Towers South, on Sept. 6, and plan to complete the project by fall of 2019.

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