Chronicle Live at Manny’s: A Look through Photojournalist’s Eyes and How They See San Francisco
San Francisco Chronicle Photojournalists along with SF State Alumnus, Photojournalist Stephen Lam, discuss their views on capturing some of San Francisco's important moments
June 23, 2023
The San Francisco Chronicle has been reporting stories since 1865 and is known for its world-class journalism for San Francisco.
In the packed venue, Lam and Lurie spoke about their struggles, learnings and inspiration behind capturing some of their most impactful work for the San Francisco Chronicle. Reporters, members of the media and San Francisco Chronicle subscribers attended the photojournalism event.
Stephen Lam, a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist, has been with the San Francisco Chronicle for over two years. Originally from Hong Kong, it wasn’t until Lam attended SF State that he found his love for photojournalism and turned it into a career.
From what began as an elective, Stephen found his love and passion for photojournalism at SF State. SF State taught Lam the fundamentals of being a photojournalist and he ultimately decided to switch his major to focus on photojournalism.
Lam credits his struggles and learnings in his path for his photojournalism success. Lam began his San Francisco Chronicle journey as an intern before becoming a full-time staff photographer for the publication.
As a photojournalist for the San Francisco Chronicle, Lam covers many stories, including food, sports, natural disasters and homelessness.
Lam describes his process of capturing the right shot by always being prepared.
“Five hours of waiting for a shot on location will sometimes give you only five minutes of shoot time to get that perfect shot,” Lam said.
“I can never expect a perfect shot,” he said. “Sometimes my approach to a perfect shot presents itself when I show up on-site and that will sometimes allow for experimentation.”
Ethics also comes into play as a photojournalist. Lam explained that he could not give the individual he was following for a cover story a ride to a job interview when he could do so. This action would go against the journalism ethics code and affect the story’s truthfulness.
Gabrielle Lurie, another speaker at the event, agreed with that approach and described a similar experience with a mother and child sleeping in the cold and why she didn’t buy them a hotel room for the night.
“I could have bought them a warm place to sleep that night, but their life predicament wouldn’t change. Our relationship would,” said Lurie.
Lurie is originally from Washington, D.C. and fell in love with photojournalism at 17 years old through art photography. Lurie, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, was raised by immigrant parents who told stories from different backgrounds and viewpoints.
“My favorite aspect of photojournalism is doing something and meeting someone new every day,” Lurie said. “It’s a privilege to do what I do.”
Lurie has shot moments that range from a near-fatal drug overdose to extreme homeless situations with children. Though it’s not always easy to ‘freeze’ these moments in time, they are often met with hostility and violence.
Capturing intense moments in San Francisco can sometimes come at a cost. Lurie mentally processes her experiences – good and bad – by going to therapy and surrounding herself with loved ones.
Lurie describes her photojournalism method as her camera as her shield and weapon and uses it to capture raw moments with a purpose.
San Francisco resident Olivia Zimmerman has been a San Francisco Chronicle subscriber for over 35 years and uses them as her primary local news source.
“Reading the San Francisco Chronicle is something I look forward to,” Zimmerman said. “It keeps me informed about stories that I can personally connect with and gives me a deeper understanding of San Francisco.”
The San Francisco Chronicle’s photojournalism staff come from many different backgrounds that help represent diverse people and stories within the Bay Area community. These photographers capture moments that help tell compelling stories of San Francisco and the Bay Area.
Photojournalism digs deep and showcases the rawness of storytelling at its best. Stories that show the good, the bad and the ugly of San Francisco.