Dec. 09, 2022
Best of the Week — First Winner
Heartbreaking photos give rare personal look at fentanyl's toll on homeless people
When photographer Jae C. Hong returned to Los Angeles after a year in Japan, he was struck by how the number of homeless people had vastly multiplied. It was immediately before the pandemic -- and Hong, like so many reporters in the AP, spent much of the next year chronicling the impact of coronavirus.
Earlier this year, he was able to get back to the project he’d yearned to pursue and started chronicling homeless Angelenos between other assignments. One night, he encountered two police officers standing over a dead body -- and his project, spotlighting the lives, and sometimes the deaths, of fentanyl addicts, began to take shape.
Hong spent about six months documenting the humanitarian disaster. What he produced were gut-wrenching photos that gave a rare, intensely personal and brutally honest look into the tragedy unfolding on the streets of LA, an unconscionable scene often overlooked. AP writer Brian Melley, using Hong's reporting and experiences, crafted a story of equally vivid imagery that portrayed the raw human suffering with sensitivity to complete the package. The package was widely used and kept readers’ attention. The engagement score on AP News was a perfect 100 and Facebook featured it on its news feed.
For focusing on a problem that is too often unseen and producing a raw, compelling visual package, this week’s first Best of the Week is awarded to Los Angeles photojournalist Jae C. Hong.