The San Francisco Chronicle visual team compiled an extraordinary body of work during 2022 as part of the news organization’s ongoing editorial priority of covering the city’s struggles with the deadly fentanyl epidemic, overdose deaths on the city’s streets and the housing insecurity crisis. Their reporting revealed that all three issues are connected.
The visual team’s work included:
Photographer Stephen Lam produced an intimate, visually driven narrative documenting fentanyl’s grip on the community. Lam, who braved threats from drug dealers, followed a cross-section of people: those struggling with addictions, concerned parents, paramedics, business owners and beat cops. His images took viewers from tiny roach- and rodent-infested single-room apartments to an overdose in the middle of an Old Navy store.
Photographer Carlos Avila Gonzalez, who piloted a drone over the city’s downtown, allowed the Chronicle to show the magnitude of death in San Francisco streets by mapping and pinpointing the locations of each fatal fentanyl overdose.
Multimedia editor Guy Wathen filmed interviews that depicted a nuanced portrait of addiction. The videos proved such a powerful storytelling tool that QR codes were included in the print design so readers could see them as well.
Photographer Gabrielle Lurie traveled to New York City to document the first facilities in the U.S. where people suffering from addiction can inject or smoke drugs under supervision. Lurie’s work also included an intimate portrait of a woman struggling with addiction. Having gained the woman’s trust, Lurie had remarkable access, enabling her to portray the subject of her photography as more than just a drug user.
Brontë Wittpenn produced a heart-wrenching video on a family’s fight to understand why their 2-year-old daughter died on the operating table during surgery. The video supported the central theme of the Chronicle project to shine a light on abuses of power and the systemic failures of government and institutions to protect its most fragile citizens.
Members of the Chronicle’s visuals team also distinguished themselves by capturing powerful images celebrating the diversity and spirit of the Bay Area and its people.
They shared moments of joy, pride and family resilience. Yalonda M. James’ still images and videos celebrated the beauty and power of Black hairstyles. To recognize the often-invisible labor of women, the Chronicle’s five women photographers spent a day documenting the busy lives of working mothers from diverse backgrounds. And Scott Strazzante filed lyrical photos in a love letter to baseball and the dilapidated but beloved Oakland Coliseum.
Chronicle photojournalists excelled, providing readers and viewers with original stories captured with empathy, uncommon depth and distinctive style.