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Pulitzer Prize Winner Steph Chambers Talks Persistence, Photography

Award-winning photographer Steph Chambers spoke about her journey behind the lens with the Penn State community on Tuesday night in the Foster Auditorium. The 28-year-old is currently working for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on a team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting for its coverage of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.

Chambers spoke throughout the evening about her experiences capturing both moments of tragedy and triumph in her unpredictable profession.

“You really never know what you might find,” she said. “You should always have a camera ready.”

Chambers can attest to that statement. The Pittsburgh native hasn’t been afraid to get up close and personal in situations throughout her career, and because of this has brought to the public eye some remarkable events. One of the most incredible moments she spoke about was unexpectedly photographing the scenes of a MLB umpire save a woman from committing suicide on Roberto Clemente Bridge in Pittsburgh In the aftermath of the incident, Chambers interviewed the umpire, and it later became a national headline.

The photographer’s passion for life’s everyday, unexpected moments has shown humanity both moments of heartbreak and heroism. But not all heroes she’s photographed rescue people off bridges. Some of the greatest heroes she’s witnessed score game-winning touchdowns on a Friday night.

Chambers has been covering and photographing sports for years, a passion that has fueled a purpose in her work. Through her work, she has brought to light everything from high school football pre-game rituals in the locker rooms, to navigating her way in a sea of media at Heinz Field. No matter what task she’s been assigned, she always asks the same question to herself, “What else can make this [photograph] awesome?”

“My favorite part of sports is the emotional aspects,” she said. “You can show viewers something they can’t see from the stands.”

Sports has always held a special and emotional place in her heart. After her mother passed away when she was young, she felt a sense of comfort in the game. She spoke about memories growing up playing goalie, which would later lead to her getting an athletic scholarship to play field hockey at Missouri State. During her time as a student there, she majored in journalism, where she learned how to communicate with others in the field, a skill she stressed the importance of learning early on.

The job, however, isn’t always a pretty picture,” she said. “During the job, she has experienced her fair share of blocked angles and missed shots. While it can be tough to recover from those losses, over time, she has learned to keep going.

“When you make a mistake, you process it, and then you learn to let it go. You learn how to move on after you’ve made more mistakes.”

Breaking into the business has shown her some fair share of struggles too.

“Persistence is huge,” she said. “I was turned down many times.”

Steph Chambers may already be a Pulitzer Prize winner, respected photojournalist and videographer, but her career is just getting started. As a young journalist, she has already covered the joy of her city of Pittsburgh winning Stanley Cup Finals and grieved with her neighbors while capturing their pain after the Tree of Life massacre. Throughout the unpredictable twists and turns of her career, every day, she is still learning as she goes on how to become the best she can be.

Chambers described being a photojournalist as somebody whose job is capturing the truth. In her profession, it is crucial that she is able to deliver reality and document moments that will live on forever. But that’s not the most important aspect of the job. In times where life is unexpected, she walks away with her greatest advice, that before anything, “The number one goal is to just be a human.”

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About the Author

Mikayla Moskowitz

Mikayla is a freshman contributor majoring in Broadcast Journalism. She is from Clarksburg, Maryland, or "just outside of DC". She is a die hard sports fan, music lover and travel junkie. Email her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @mikayla_ann114 for obnoxious amounts of Washington Capitals content.

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