Christopher Assaf, graduate student at the University of Texas – Austin, is the winner of the Kit King Scholarship.
- Pulitzer Finalist (Staff,) 2016: Spot News Coverage, The Baltimore Sun
- American Society of News Editors 2016 Community Service Photojournalism Award (Staff,) “Baltimore Riots and the Freddie Gray Case”
- National Press Club Winner, 2016 Breaking News-Print (Staff,) Spring 2015 riots following the death of Freddie Gray
- Online News Association Online Journalism Awards Finalist, Al Neuharth 2016 Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, Shocking Force
- Online News Association Online Journalism Awards Finalist, 2016 Feature, Unsettled Journeys
- Online News Association Online Journalism Awards Finalist, 2016 Topical Reporting, Violence in Baltimore
- Online News Association Online Journalism Awards Winner, 2015 Breaking News, Baltimore riots and the Freddie Gray case
- Online News Association Online Journalism Awards Winner, 2015 Explanatory Reporting, The 45-minute mystery of Freddie Gray’s death
- Online News Association Online Journalism Awards Finalist, Al Neuharth 2015 Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, Undue Force
- NPPA Television Best of Photojournalism 2016: Award of Excellence Video Under Deadline, Preakness Day Time-Lapse
- White House News Photographers Association Eyes of History 2016: First Place Domestic News Photo; Award of Excellence Pictorial
- White House News Photographers Association Eyes of History 2013: Third Place Day Feature Video Editing
- White House News Photographers Association Eyes of History 2012: First Place Sports Action Photo; Third Place News Feature Video Editing
- White House News Photographers Association Eyes of History 2011: First Place General News Videography
- Dart Awards for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma 2015: Excellence in Coverage of Trauma, Collateral Damage
- National Headliner 2016: First Place (Staff,) Spot News Daily Newspaper, “Baltimore Riots and the Freddie Gray Case”
- Investigative Reporters & Editors 2015: Winner, Investigations Triggered by Breaking News, The Death of Freddie Gray
- Investigative Reporters & Editors 2015: Finalist, Innovation in Investigative Journalism, The 45-Minute Mystery of Freddie Gray’s Death
- Society of News Design 2016: Award of Excellence News Design [Pages] A-Section Broadsheet >175,000
- Pictures of the Year International 2008: Third Place Portrait
- Pictures of the Year International 1997: Award of Excellence (Journal Tribune, Biddeford, ME,) Best Use of Pictures <25,000
- Pictures of the Year International 1996: Second Place (Journal Tribune, Biddeford, ME,) Best Use of Pictures <25,000
- Pictures of the Year International 1995: Award of Excellence Sports Action
- Pictures of the Year International 1994: Award of Excellence Pictorial
- College Photographer of the Year 1992: First Place General News; Award of Excellence Pictorial
- College Photographer of the Year 1990: Award of Excellence Portfolio; First Place Sports Portfolio
- College Photographer of the Year 1989: Second Place Sports Portfolio
- Kansas State Fred Wrightman Award for Excellence in Photojournalism 1989
- Society of Collegiate Journalists Scholarship
- Hearst Journalism Awards, Photojournalism: 1992 12th Place
EDUCATION & ACADEMICS
University of Texas Austin, Austin TX, Fall 2018-Present
Master’s student, School of Journalism.
Teaching Assistant, COM 316 Photographic Communications, undergraduate, Fall 2018-Present.
Instructed two lab sections teaching students photographic skills, theories and practices. Demonstrated photographic techniques and provided guidance in conjunction with lectures. Oversaw weekly photography assignments and grading. Administered Canvas online learning management system pages for course.
Population Health Scholar, University of Texas System, Office of Health Affairs, Fall 2018-Present. Research, shoot, edit and produce video and still photographs for the Texas Health Journal, a 10,000-subscriber newsletter focusing on health and medicine in the University of Texas System’s 14 institutions. Attend weekly staff meetings; conceptualize and collaborate on stories presentation.
BS Journalism and Mass Communications Kansas State University 1992
Kansas State Collegian Daily Newspaper, Fall 1991, Photo Editor.
Kansas State Royal Purple yearbook, Fall 1989-Spring 1990, Photo Editor.
Kansas State Royal Purple Yearbook, Fall 1987-Spring 1992, Staff Photographer.
Kansas State Collegian, 1987-1992, Staff Photographer.
Salisbury University, Salisbury MD, 2017-July 2018, Videographer.
Video shooting and editing; conceptualize, collaborate with the team and produce video projects for marketing and public relations purposes, and to show at university events. Maintain proper file management protocols, problem solve computer and equipment issues quickly and efficiently, and help other team members as needed. Work accurately with strong work ethic; creative, honest and keen attention to detail.
The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore MD, 2003- 2016.
Visuals Content Editor for Sunday & Enterprise, 2014-2016. Conceived, directed and edited video and photographs for online and print as lead editor for weekends at a major newspaper with 5 million unique views per month. Created 120 videos annually. Management team member who supervised, assigned and coached seven photographers and interns. Key visual content and editing player on team that was a 2016 Pulitzer finalist in Breaking News for coverage following the arrest and death of Freddie Gray. Brainstormed, organized and edited from concept to publication video and still photography for prize-winning documentary and investigative projects. Trained and coached visuals staff, as well as reporters and editors, in video ethics, techniques and usage.
Multimedia Editor/Video, 2008-2013. Created and implemented workflow for video creation, editing and production. Worked with reporters and editors to select coverage and assign photographers for daily and project video. Report, shot, edited and produced videos while also editing provided clips, adding graphics and motion. Trained and coached staff of 15 on Final Cut Pro, Adobe Creative Suite and video technology. Coordinated switch from standard video technology to High Definition DSLR video and cinematography.
Staff Photographer, 2003-2008, General assignment photojournalist covering news, sports, features and enterprise. Developed leads, sources and pitched stories.
University of Maryland, College Park MD, 2013, Adjunct Professor.
Created syllabus, lesson plans and taught required multimedia classes. Educated students in editorial conventions, theories and ethics of digital storytelling, as well as software.
Community College of Baltimore County, Essex MD, 2009-2012, Adjunct Professor.
Created syllabus, lesson plans and taught introductory communications class. Educated students in the fundamentals of interpersonal and group communications, and mass media.
City Talk Magazine & WTTW Public Television, Chicago, 2001- 2003, Photo Editor.
Assigned, coached and edited freelance photographers for a bi-weekly magazine with a 12-person staff. Conceptualized and photographed stories and projects. Edited and selected photographs for print; scanned and toned images in Photoshop for publication.
The Courier News, Elgin IL, 1997-2000, Staff Photographer.
General assignment photojournalist covering news, sports, features and enterprise. Developed leads, sources and pitched stories.
Journal Tribune, Biddeford ME, 1994-1997, Chief Photographer & Designer.
Managed and planned coverage for two staff photographers and interns at 15,000-circulation daily paper. Conceptualized stories and visual coverage with editors and reporters. Researched and implemented digital workflow and production for color photography and publishing.
The Newport Beach-Costa Mesa Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, CA, 1993-1994, Staff Photographer.
General assignment photojournalist covering news, sports, features and enterprise. Developed leads, sources and pitched stories.
“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough. ” That quote by the great war photographer Robert Capa has been the foundation of my mantra — get closer! I always waded into the thick of it, whether into the sweaty scrum of a festival mosh pit or the destroyed terrain and lives in Gulfport, Miss. , two days after Hurricane Katrina. The camera was my shield; the truth my mission.
Then I got too close and paid for it. But that experience made me realize what I need to do with the rest of my professional and academic life.
April 27, 2015 in Baltimore — the day of Freddie Gray’s funeral — I got too close. While photographing people outside a row of stores being looted I was confronted by a group of men. Then I was attacked.
Throughout a visual career that has spanned many states and publications, I have held many positions — intern, staff photographer, chief photographer, photo editor, multimedia editor, visuals content editor — and performed many tasks. It has been my good fortune to have covered a few biggest events of the past 20-plus years. Within that period what I truly remember and cherish are the moments of mentorship and guidance that I have received and given, whether to peers, interns or the people with whom I worked. In the forefront of my visual mind has sat the flint waiting to spark my pursuit of teaching. Since before I picked up my first 35mm camera and loaded a roll of Tri-X I have wanted to teach in some form.
I’ve taught at high school workshops, offered presentations at schools, universities and conferences. I’ve also taught seven semesters as an adjunct at the collegiate level and currently serve as a graduate teaching assistant. Now, after changing my navigational settings, I have set my course to finally achieve the goal. It is my plan to earn a master’s degree in journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, where I am in my first semester of study, and then continue and earn a Ph. D and gain a position at an institution of higher education, teach photojournalism, further explore visual storytelling, and do research to help others in the field.
Not only do I want to train future visual storytellers, it is my purpose to improve visual storytelling, both still and video, at traditional media outlets and for online. To discover and validate ways to stabilize revenues and find new streams and give the photographers and editors the credible studies and research they need to move forward. My plan is to do the first thorough and in-depth research on American visual storytellers.
Because of my own past instances with “getting too close,” it is a secondary mission of mine to help find ways for to help journalists who suffer trauma’s effects. Journalists of all stripes, whether through direct physical confrontation, as collateral damage to shootings and murders, or as a byproduct of covering trauma and stress in others, suffer and do not necessarily know where to turn for help to recognize, deal with and respond to high-stress, work-related pressures. Many employers, as well as the employees, do not necessarily know what to do when confronting the many tentacled effects of trauma and brain health that can grip people. In a heightened climate of stress and national division — where journalists are represented as the “enemy of the people,” bombs are sent to journalists and a disgruntled gunman attacked the Annapolis Capital-Gazette and killed five journalists — it is necessary to raise awareness of the adverse personal and professional impact trauma can have on journalists and to develop proactive strategies for all to deal with it.
I plan to research, synthesize and share information that will assist working journalists, editors and news executives in understanding and favorably addressing the practical, mental and physical challenges faced by reporters and photographers covering high-intensity, traumatic and potentially dangerous situations. We need to ponder what is “close enough,” taking into consideration the costs and benefits to our audience and to those journalists at risk because of the volatile nature of certain stories.
There is a strong need to take care of journalists in both the short and long term, so our best storytellers can do their best work. It is my plan to do so in the classroom and by research, to lead the way to more information that can help all those involved in protecting one of the pillars of freedom.
Click on pictures to see stories.
Life for 17-year-old “Chunk,” James to his family, is not easy. He lives with his mother, a six-year-old sister and two recently born twin boys in a small two-bedroom apartment. The family is on welfare, and his stepfather has been jailed for drugs. As with many teens in similar situations, the high school junior has difficulty getting work or keeping a job.
The lure of the gang lifestyle — with its drugs, money and sense of kinship — constantly tugs at him. Chunk feels the weight of the world on his shoulders and believes it is getting heavier by the day. He sees his escape as when he graduates high school and, with great hope, attempts to join the Marine Corps.
After 112 years, Grant Elementary School in Elgin wrapped up its final school year. The two story, red-brick building was tagged for closure five years ago by a team of building experts. Its cavernous basement and a difficult floor plan were deemed beyond repair or renovation. Students will be sent to neighboring schools instead.
Standing out happens when someone one is alone, particularly where groups and crowds gather. In late 2016, after separating from my wife of 12 years, I started an essay contemplating the ideas of isolation. Living alone during this time, I started a new job in Salisbury, Md. It felt felt like exile after living in the Baltimore area for 13 years. Visiting places such as New York and Austin the isolation followed and seemed exceedingly heavy — nearly repressive. In an almost meditative fashion I made an effort to break through the feelings of seclusion by using the camera to fill the intangible and empty spaces.
As a follow-up to the 2014 Baltimore Sun series “Collateral Damage,” about the consequences of violence on Baltimore’s children and families, the Sun partnered with Promise Heights to get residents of Upton/Druid Heights to tell their own stories and spark ideas for solutions.
Project role: Producer, Editor, Videographer, Interviewer; Visuals Content Editor for Sunday and Enterprise.
Freelance news photographer Steve Ruark has made about 200 trips to Dover Air Force Base to document the dignified transfer of the remains of American servicemen and women who died while serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is often the only member of the media present. During the early part of the two wars photographers and media were kept away from Dover for the transfers. Now they can only be covered if the family of the dead grants permission.
Project role: Project Editor, Video Editor and Videographer, Reporter.
Preakness Day at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore as American Pharoah wins the second jewel of the Triple Crown. A storm just before the start made it a soggy ending. That did not stop American Pharoah from going on to win the Triple Crown.
Project role: Photographer and Video Editor.
The first-ever data analysis of all Taser incidents in Maryland over a three-year period reveals that police agencies across the state have predominantly used the devices against suspects who posed no immediate threat. In hundreds of cases, police didn’t follow widely accepted safety recommendations, The Baltimore Sun found.
Project role: Producer and Editor as Visuals Content Editor for Sunday and Enterprise
Traveling by air, once considered glorious, elegant and the stuff of dreams, has become a discordant, impatient world of crowds, heavy baggage and waiting — time lost that could have been spent elsewhere, such as the destination. Put simply, air travel is not simple and the fantasy of commercial flight has been grounded in reality.
Since starting photography at 15, observing others making and taking photographs has always been a fascinating endeavor with the camera. The ubiquity of the cell phone as the camera of choice has almost eliminated the album on the shelf, replaced with streams filled by Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and others. At one point while on assignment at a book fair, a seller gave away a browned copy of Kodak’s “How to Make Good Pictures.” The book is also ubiquitous, as no one — not even Kodak — really knows how many editions have been printed since first published in 1912. Artist Zoe Leonard created an installation with the same title comprised of 429 copies of the book during a retrospective at the Whitney in New York. It segues from old to new and includes copies made after 1981’s title change to “How to Take Good Pictures.” This seems apropos as picture making has changed so much in the intervening years, from analog film to digital cameras to slim smart phones. No matter the device, it is the image that matters.