This heartbreaking photo essay just won a Pulitzer Prize

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Strider carries a flower for his grandmother Lanette.
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Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Courtesy of the Pulitzer Prizes

This year’s Pulitzer Prize in the “feature photography” category tells a heartbreaking tale of Strider Wolf.

Living in Maine with his grandparents, Larry and Lanette, Strider, 6, suffered severe physical abuse from his mother’s boyfriend at the mere age of 2.

Poverty-stricken, Larry and Lanette were evicted from their home when photographer Jessica Rinaldi began documenting their story for The Boston Globe.

During the summer, the family lived in various campsites out of their cluttered mobile home. The series was nominated by The Boston Globe’s editor Brian McGrory.

“In the chaos and deprivation, Wolf had a simple and abiding wish: to be loved,” wrote McGrory in his entry cover letter.

Ahead, the moving series and The Boston Globe’s original reporting, courtesy of the Pulitzer Prizes.


Strider Wolf was born poor in rural Maine. When he was 2, his mother’s raging boyfriend beat him nearly to death. He managed to pull through, ending up in the care of his grandparents who became homeless trying to provide for Strider and his younger brother, Gallagher.

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Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Courtesy of the Pulitzer Prizes

After two years of not paying the rent, the family was given 30 days to pack their things and leave. On the night of the eviction, Strider’s grandparents move their possessions into a storage space.

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Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Courtesy of the Pulitzer Prizes

On the night of the eviction, Lanette and her son’s fiancée Ashly take a break from packing up the family’s belongings. As the night goes on, it becomes clear that they are not going to be able to take all of their possessions with them.

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Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Courtesy of the Pulitzer Prizes

With nowhere else to go, the Grants told the boys they were going camping and the family of four squeezed into the 24-foot camper with their cat and two dogs.

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Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Courtesy of the Pulitzer Prizes

After moving into a campground, Strider struggles as he carries gallons of water filled from a spigot to the camper.

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Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Courtesy of the Pulitzer Prizes

Strider looks for Lanette with a flower behind his back to apologize after she yelled at him for wetting the bed. His therapist has explained that his bed-wetting is a response to trauma, either the unfolding upset in their lives, or some resurrecting memory. Lanette knows this, but their living situation is starting to take a toll on her patience.

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Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Courtesy of the Pulitzer Prizes

Lanette often laments that she and Larry aren’t able to be grandparents to Strider and Gallagher because they have to play the role of Mom and Dad, enforcing rules and making sure they are provided for.

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Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Courtesy of the Pulitzer Prizes

According to the state, living in a campground means they no longer have a house payment. Because of this, their food stamps have been cut by $100.

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Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Courtesy of the Pulitzer Prizes

Often left to their own devices, Strider and Gallagher played on an abandoned Ford at twilight. Strider holds a broken automotive hose to his eyes like a pair of binoculars and asks, “What’s on the moon?”

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Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Courtesy of the Pulitzer Prizes

During Strider’s 6th birthday party, Lanette and her mother make the 15-minute drive to Walmart to pick up his cake. Having waited for them over two hours, a disappointed Strider sits beside Larry until he can return to begin his party.

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Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Courtesy of the Pulitzer Prizes

During this unsettling time for the family, Strider wanders into his old bedroom and looks around at many of his belongings that will not make the next move and will be left behind.

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Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Courtesy of the Pulitzer Prizes

After living in several campgrounds over the summer, the Grants appear in Maine District Court to try to retrieve their belongings from the mobile home. Without a lawyer, the Grants have few options for recourse against their former landlord. The Grants were only allowed to reclaim a few personal possessions.

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Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Courtesy of the Pulitzer Prizes

Gallagher cools off with a drink as Larry and Lanette scramble to pack by the light of their car headlights as the midnight eviction deadline inches closer. The landlord has cut the power and put locks on the electrical boxes in an attempt to force them off the property.

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Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Courtesy of the Pulitzer Prizes

After months of searching for a new place to live, the Grants finally find a home they can afford on Craigslist in Lisbon, Maine. Anna Cunningham arrives at the family’s new home with a donation of beds for the boys. Lanette grabs her and pulls her in for a grateful hug.

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Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Courtesy of the Pulitzer Prizes

On the first morning, Strider plays in the backyard of his new home, an old rectory in Lisbon, Maine. The yard was fenced and tucked into a neighborhood, so different from the woods he called home.

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Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Courtesy of the Pulitzer Prizes

Strider, who takes multiple medications resulting from his early childhood abuse, gets his morning meds from Lannette in their new home. “We haven’t been here 24 hours, and I’m tired already,” Lanette said.

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Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Courtesy of the Pulitzer Prizes