SAN FRANCISCO, 1993. I was working on a project about urban poverty. Every Thursday, I met with a doctor, a social worker and a nurse, who cared for the Aids patients at the Ambassador Hotel, an SRO flophouse in the Tenderloin neighborhood littered with crackheads and soup kitchens. One morning, I met Julie Baird, 19, standing in the lobby with a newborn baby in her arms, pants half zipped, her then-partner Jack Fyffe, 21, at her side. She said Rachel gave her ‘a reason to live.’ Julie said ‘yes’ to being in the project. For the next 21 years, I photographed Julie and her family’s complex story of poverty, AIDS, multiple homes, relationships, loss, reunion, birth, and death. (Photo: Darcy Padilla)

Darcy Padilla

“I work the way I work because I’m trying to answer questions. I’m much more interested in the search for an answer to a question than saying, ‘This is it.’”


Darcy Padilla is a documentary photographer, photojournalist and lecturer based in San Francisco and member of Agence Vu. Padilla was the first photo intern at The New York Times and turned down a staff job to pursue an independent career and her own documentary projects. At age 29, Padilla received a Guggenheim Fellowship for her project on urban poverty. Her honors include an Alexia Foundation Grant, Open Society Institute Individual Fellowship, Getty Images Grant, Alicia Patterson Fellowship, International Photo Reporter Grant, Canon Female Photojournalist Award, W. Eugene Smith Grant for Humanitarian Photography, and three World Press Photo Awards (first recipient for Long-term Projects). Padilla was a judge on the second season of Sky Arts’ Master of Photography. Exhibited and published internationally, Padilla documented the 2016 U.S. elections exclusively for Le Monde and in 2017 exhibited at Visa pour L’Image her ongoing project on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Padilla’s recent book, “Family Love,” follows a family for 21 years — an intimate story of poverty, Aids and social issues.

Workshop Assignment

From Darcy’s workshop assignment on a tattoo artist in Liberty, NY.