Renée C. Byer (born in 1958 in Yonkers, New York) is the senior photojournalist at The Sacramento Bee, where she has worked since 2003.
Byer is an award-winning documentary photojournalist, and multimedia field producer best known to give a voice for the disadvantaged people with profound emotional resonance and sensitivity. She won a Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for her photo essay "A Mother's Journey".
Byer was also a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2013, "For her heartwarming photographs of a grandfather raising three grandchildren after the violent death of his daughter and the loss of his wife to cancer."
Byer was first introduced to photography by her father who had a dark room in their apartment in the Bronx. Then her mother gave Renée her first camera or her 8th birthday, a Brownie Starmite II Kodak. She studied photography in high school and took the pictures for the yearbook. She went to Ulster County Community College to study art and humanities. She then transferred to Bradley University in Peoria, IL and majored in art and mass communications.
Byer worked for different newspapers before starting at the Sacramento Bee as a documentary photojournalist.
A Mother's Journey
"A Mother's Journey", her photo series which won her the Pulitzer prize for Feature Photography in 2007 was shot over the course of a year, about the relationship between a mother, Cyndie French and her 11 years old son Derek who was battling neuroblastoma, a type of cancer.
Living on a Dollar a Day
Byers worked for four years on a photography project called Living on a Dollar a Day. She collaborated with Thomas A. Nazario to write the book Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor released in April 2014. They travelled on four continents, in ten different countries for the San Francisco-based nonprofit The Forgotten International detailing the lives of women, children, and families around the world living in extreme poverty. The book won First Place Documentary Book from the International Photography Awards in 2014, and a documentary about the project was released in 2016 narrated by Byer herself.
The Dalai Lama wrote a foreword for the book where he states, “Living on a Dollar a Day shows images of women, children and families in our global community who suffer every day from the effects of extreme poverty. Their stories tell us that they have the same hopes and dreams for themselves and for their children as anyone else in the world.”
The book is not only a testimony on poverty, but also aims to engage the reader with a section at the end of each chapter called “A Way to Help,” where you can find a list of opportunities to help; complete with organization names, addresses, phone numbers and websites.
Byer is married to Paul Kitagaki, Jr., senior photographer at The Sacramento Bee in 2003.
- 2017 The White House News Photographers Association Multimedia documentary award in the annual ‘Eyes of History’ competition, "No Safe Place." 1st Place"
- 2016 EPPY for Best Photojournalism
- 2016 Inland Press Association, 1st Place News Picture Photography - Picture Story Renée C. Byer, The Sacramento Bee, "No Safe Place."
- 2016 Inland Press Association, 1st Place Creative Use of Multimedia, "No Safe Place"
- 2016 SPJNORCAL, 1st Place Community Journalism (Print/Online), "No Safe Place"
- 2016 SPJNORCAL, 1st Place Photojournalism (Photo Essay), "No Safe Place"
- 2015 Best of Photojournalism, Nature and Environmental Picture Story, National Press Photographers Association, First Place
- 2015 World Understanding Award, Pictures of the Year International, Finalist
- 2015 Scripps Howard Photojournalism Award, Finalist
- 2015 LensCulture Earth Awards, Documentary Series on electronic waste, Second Place
- 2013 Pulitzer Prize, Feature Photography, The Sacramento Bee, Finalist
- 2007 Pulitzer Prize, Feature Photography, “A Mother’s Journey,” The Sacramento Bee, Winner
- 2007 World Understanding Award, Pictures of the Year International, Winner
- 2007 Multimedia Feature Picture Story, Pictures of the Year International
- 2007 Days Japan International Photojournalism Award, Second Place
- 2007 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism, Winner
- 2007 Photo of the Year Award, The United Nations Children Emergency Fund, Honorable Mention
- 2007 Award of Excellence, Feature Photography, Pictures of the Year International
- 2014 IPA Documentary Book Award, Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor, First Place
- 2014 Moscow International Foto Awards, Documentary Book, Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor, Honorable Mention
Solo Exhibitions and Presentations
- 2017 Western Kentucky University MMTH Gallery and Atrium, Bowling Green, Kentucky
- 2016 Global Women Leaders’ Forum: Inspiring the Next Generation of Leaders, Sofia, Bulgaria
- 2016 Month of Photography Los Angeles, California; official exhibition
- 2015 Viewpoint Photographic Art Center, Sacramento, California
- 2014 Visa Pour L’Image Festival of the Photograph, Perpignan, France; video presentation
- 2014 Hartmann Center Art Gallery, Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois
- 2010 Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, State University of New York, New Paltz
- 2007 Sage Moon Gallery, LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph, Charlottesville, Virginia
- 2007 Hartmann Center Art Gallery, Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois
- 2007 Muroff-Kotler Visual Arts Gallery, State University of New York, Stone Ridge, New York
- 2007 Palm Beach Photographic Centre, Palm Beach, Florida
- 2007 Exposure Gallery, San Francisco, California
- 2014 Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor, The Quantuck Press, Thomas Nazario
- 2010 A Mother’s Journey and Selected Photographs, Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, SUNY, New Paltz
TV, Film, and Radio