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Pulitzer Prize–Winning Photography Grad Shares Her Experience & Insight

Drawing on her impressive career, Deanne Fitzmaurice offered Academy of Art University students a unique and exciting glimpse into the changing world of photojournalism.

Photo of Deanne Fitzmaurice

At an event on July 14, Deanne talked about her experience working at newspapers and her freelance career. The presentation was followed by a signing of her new book Freak Season, which follows Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum on his journey to the World Series. View a video of the event.

Deanne originally came to Academy of Art University to pursue a degree in Fine Art. When she took a class in Photography, she knew she had found a new path. “I fell in love with photojournalism,” she told the audience. “I really felt like I found my passion.”

After graduating from the Academy with a BFA in Photography, Deanne began working for the San Francisco Chronicle. Her work there won the Pulitzer Prize, the Casey Medal and the Associated Press’s Mark Twain Award. In her time at the paper, she photographed a variety of subjects, including President Barack Obama, film director Steven Spielberg, actor Jerry Seinfeld and San Francisco Giant Barry Bonds. Her photographs have also been published in Time, Newsweek, ESPN and Sports Illustrated.

She attributes much of her success to three guiding principles: building trust and relationships, honesty and being persistent and patient. As she talked to the audience, she explained how her Pulitzer Prize–winning photo story had utilized each of those core ideas.

The photographs follow the story of Saleh, a young Iraqi boy who was severely injured by a bomb in 2003. While he was walking home from school, he picked up an object that appeared to him to be a toy ball. When it exploded moments later, Saleh’s brother was killed and Saleh lost an eye and hand and his abdomen was ripped open.

Photo of Tim Lincecum
by Deanne Fitzmaurice

Beginning at a hospital in Iraq, an effort, which would encompass two countries and a number of dedicated doctors and friends, began to save Saleh’s life.  Eventually, Saleh and his father Raheem came to Children’s Hospital in Oakland. When the San Francisco Chronicle heard about Saleh, they sent Deanne and a staff writer to the hospital to tell his story.

Deanne was able to gain the trust of Saleh and his father through a relationship she had built during a previous story. She had recently spent time photographing Saleh’s doctor, and he greeted her as a friend when saw her in the hospital room. She built on her relationship by always being honest with the two subjects of her story, working with translators when they were available to make her intentions clear.

When introducing the concept of patience as a guiding principle, Deanne said, “I think it’s important to take the time to capture these authentic moments.” Both Deanne and the Chronicle’s writer wanted to take that time to capture Saleh’s story. After convincing editors that it was important to follow Saleh’s journey, they spent months interviewing and photographing the boy and his father.

Deanne Fitzmaurice signs her book

Anticipating the changing media environment, Deanne also encouraged photographers in the audience to consider ways to enrich their stories through multimedia presentations. Deanne has worked on her own and with teams to use video and audio to enhance and enrich those stories. She has also found that her honed skills in interviewing, videotaping and audio recording have opened doors for her.

Excited about the opportunities that emerging photojournalists will have to illustrate and tell rich stories, Deanne said, “Things are really different now. Newspapers aren’t the only game out there for photojournalists. We can go out and tell stories on the web. We’re defining it.”

Academy of Art University would like to thank Deanne Fitzmaurice for sharing her practical advice and impressive experience with Academy students. 


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