Sharing insights and images from her Pulitzer Prize-winning career in photojournalism, Academy graduate Deanne Fitzmaurice appeared July 14, 2011, before an enthused audience at the university’s NM Theater in San Francisco. Originally a fine arts student, Fitzmaurice “fell in love” with photography after taking a class. “I really felt like I found my passion,” she said.
And that passion has led to assignments and recognition that any photographer would envy. In her address, Fitzmaurice (BFA 1983, School of Photography) drew lessons from her photojournalism experiences working as a freelancer and at newspapers, including advice for prospective professionals. Her career in photography didn’t come easy.
“I grew up in a small town,” she said, displaying a photo of a city limits sign from her hometown that calls attention to the fact it’s the birthplace of a Pulitzer Prize winner. “A very small town,” she added, drawing laughs from the audience.
Enrolled in the Academy’s School of Fine Art and intending to study painting and sculpture, Fitzmaurice admitted that her talents weren’t suited to those disciplines. But discovering photography provided the spark that allowed her to develop her visual abilities.
After graduating, Fitzmaurice worked at the San Francisco Chronicle, where one of her first assignments was the kind that might have rattled a new shooter: photographing a nudist colony. In time, her work there won the Pulitzer Prize, the Casey Medal and the Associated Press Mark Twain Award, among other honors.
In subsequent years, her photographs have also been published in Time, Newsweek, ESPN and Sports Illustrated.
Fitzmaurice told the audience she attributes her success to three guiding principles: building trust and relationships, honesty, and being persistent and patient. All three were instrumental in crafting the story that won her the Pulitzer in 2005 in Feature Photography, she said. Those images, which revolve around an injured Iraqi boy who was brought to Children’s Hospital in Oakland, Calif., required more than photography skills. It was her prior relationship with the young patient’s doctor at Children’s Hospital that enabled her to build trust with the boy and his father, which she reinforced in subsequent days, employing empathy and patience.
“I think it’s important to take the time to capture these authentic moments,” she said.