Defining the “new California dream”

Everyday Bay Area uses visual storytelling to create understanding across identities, ages, demographics and geographies.

From left: 1. “My Bay Area commuters series is inspired by the great Bruce Davidson book “Subway”. As a freelancer in the Bay I took a lot of public transit between Oakland and San Francisco. As Davidson recognized, public transit is a community within itself, that is often crowded, hot, smelly and sometimes just plain odd — like when I met a man with a lyre on the 12th street BART platform in Oakland.” Photo by Colleen Cummins, @colleenkcummins 2. “Some farmers at the Alemany Market come all the way from Madera which is a 4–5 hour drive. They’ll drive to SF the night before and stay in Redwood City so they don’t have to make the long drive in the morning. In the summer you can buy huge beautiful watermelons, peppers, eggplants, peanuts and lots of hot weather crops. There are 3rd generation California famers who show up every Saturday rain or shine.” Photo by Jen Baxter, @jenbaxtersf 3. A young patron amuses himself at an arcade and museum that houses various classic games of the 1980s including PAC-Man, Donkey Kong and Star Wars, among others. $5 for an hour or $10 for a whole day. Photo by Alpana Aras-King, @alpanaaras

Since President Donald Trump’s victory, the United States has seen some of its largest protests and marches in decades, as well as increasingly divisive politics. This is when Catchlight — a San Francisco-based photography organization — decided to use images to bring people together and bridge the differences through the formation of @EverydayBayArea on Instagram.

“Our region is notorious for having one of the highest costs-of-living in the U.S. and the feed could easily fall into the rhythm of showcasing the privileges that come along with being here, instead of contrasting the haves with the have-nots,” says Pei Ketron, project manager for the account.

The images on @EverydayBayArea will share startup and tech life, but also the struggles of those who go to the Bay Area in search of something more and who don’t necessarily find it. Pei says the feed will also feature issues that are often swept under the rug, citing the relocation of the homeless before the 2016 Super Bowl.

Clockwise from top: 1. “San Francisco, California’s Excelsior District raised me right. I couldn’t ask for a better neighborhood and better friends to grow up and grow old with. It’s like I had 50 older brothers and 50 younger brothers. We went from the schoolyard to the fast lane, but we got handles so we gonna be all right.” Photo by Bruce Marley, @rastadave52 2. “Everything is beautiful, it’s just how you look at it.” Photo by Bruce Marley, @rastadave52 3. “Last week, SF legend Al Nalbandian passed away at 95. If you’re a San Franciscan, you’ve likely seen Al at his flower stand in Union Square, where he worked for 70+ years. When he wasn’t arranging flowers or greeting old friends, he could often be found on a movie set (you might remember him from American Graffiti, So I Married an Axe Murderer, The Conversation, Tucker, The Streets of San Francisco, etc). We’ll miss you, Al.” Photo by Chris Michel, @chris_michel

“I think showcasing the many elements that make up our city and the surrounding regions is step one,” Pei says. “It will serve as a way of not just showing the rest of the world, but also those of us here, that this place is much more than the Silicon Valley tech reputation that precedes us.”

Previously known as PhotoPhilanthropy, Catchlight calls itself “a photography organization that celebrates and amplifies excellence and innovation in visual storytelling.” When Catchlight started @EverydayBayArea, they recruited Pei to become its project manager.

“The California Dream has always meant seeking fame and fortune, from the Gold Rush to Hollywood to Silicon Valley,” Pei says. “But now, California faces vast economic disparity among its residents, so we’re asking ourselves what is the ‘New California Dream?’ Hence our theme: Picturing the New California Dream.”

From top left: 1. “Ms. Josephina Guattini and caregiver Juanita Gutierrez walk up Excelsior Avenue after purchasing groceries on Mission Street.” Photo by Emma Marie Chiang, @echiangphoto 2. Strolling in San Francisco along Olive Street in The Tenderloin. Photo by Brenton Gieser, @brentongieser 3. “NYC-based artist, Hope Gangloff, only paints people she knows; in this case, an employee at the Cantor Arts Center, where she is currently painting in its light-filled atrium.” Photo by Kaitlin Yapchaian, @kaitlinyap

Based in the Bay Area since 2004, Pei taught special education for a decade in the public school system and is now a photographer with a focus on travel and commercial work. She also teaches photography and speaks at conferences, mostly about iPhoneography and social media.

As the project manager for @EverydayBayArea, Pei has built an all-star roster that includes photo editors, senior communications experts and documentary and portrait photographers. But she hopes to expand the roster to include budding local photographers through partnerships with schools and youth photography organizations in the area.

From left: 1. “The striking architecture inside the Berkeley Art Museum and its cafe, Babette, makes it a unique and beautiful coffee stop.” 2. “Prepping for the evening. From an afternoon spent at The Progress with @cuyana and @cerealmag.” 3. Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco. Photos by Pei Ketron, @pketron

In mid-May, Austin Merrill, one of the cofounders of Everyday Africa and The Everyday Projects, traveled to San Francisco to help demonstrate how to use the curriculum that Everyday Africa built with the help of the Pulitzer Center.

Pei says a strong education component is crucial to the mission of Everyday Bay Area. So she and several Everyday Bay Area photographers joined Austin on visits to Berkeley High School and Balboa High School.

“It’s always fun to watch the students and teachers light up when we start using photography and Instagram to talk about breaking down stereotypes,” Austin says. “But this time it was particularly exciting because of the Everyday Bay Area photographers — they were able to connect with the kids on a local level. At Balboa we even had a couple of photographers with us that had gone to that school. The kids loved that.”

Austin Merrill speaks about Everyday Africa’s recently published book at an event celebrating the launch of @EverydayBayArea. Photos courtesy of @EverydayBayArea, Emma Marie Chiang, @echiangphoto and Vasudhaa Narayanan, @vasudhaa

The recently published Everyday Africa book will also be a valuable tool in the classroom. After visiting Berkeley and Balboa high schools, Austin spoke about the new book at an evening event in San Francisco sponsored by Catchlight.

“I was blown away by the turnout,” Austin says. “Not only were all the seats taken, but it was a very engaged crowd. They asked provocative questions and stuck around after the event to talk about their love of photography and their interest in helping to use imagery to address misperception worldwide. And several teachers asked how they could bring our curriculum into their schools — that’s what excited me most.”

Austin and fellow Everyday Africa cofounder Peter DiCampo are planning to expand the educational offerings of The Everyday Projects. So far the two have taught classes in middle and high schools in Chicago, New York, Washington DC, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Mombasa, Kenya. With the help of PhotoWings, they are developing instructional videos that will make curricular materials more widely available.


On Fridays, Pei will soon start reposting images from among the photos hashtagged #EverydayBayArea, as a way to include the larger community. Through a greater diversity of images and artists, Pei says the account will help define the “New California Dream.”

“Without fair and representative coverage, we risk ostracizing certain segments of the population and sending the message that not all voices and perspectives are respected.”

Clockwise from top left: 1. “If you’re looking for a place to enjoy a long hug, the Embarcadero has you covered.” Photo by Chris Michel, @chris_michel 2. “Who didn’t dream of being in a band as a teenager? I know I did! This is Carlos. He and two of his fellow classmates from Life Academy high school in Fruitvale started a DIY band. Today they where visiting Guitar Center during band field trip.” Photo by Colleen Cummins, @colleenkcummins 3. “Cooling off at Stinson beach when the Bay reaches 75 degrees.” Photo by Duc Le, @ducstar 4. “Mariam, 19 immigrated to Oakland three years ago as a refugee from Rwanda. When she arrived her English was limited but she persisted and this June she’ll be graduating from Oakland International High School and attending Mills College this fall.” Photo by Colleen Cummins, @colleenkcummins