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Photojournalist and visual storyteller

Multimedia photojournalist Manny Crisostomo is a native of Guam and is perhaps best known on the island for his stunning photographs documenting the lives and culture of the Chamorro people.  His keen eye and extensive photography work for almost 30 years have won him numerous awards and accolades, including the Pulitzer Prize in feature photography, which he was awarded in 1989.

Crisostomo, born in 1958, is the son of Herman Aguon Crisostomo and Maria Rosario Crisostomo from the central village of Sinajana.  His career in photography began while he was a student at the University of Guam and working as an intern reporter and photographer at the Pacific Daily News, Guam’s local newspaper.  However, Crisostomo eventually left Guam to attend the University of Missouri, home of one of the nation’s best programs in photojournalism.  The competitiveness of the program and the chance to work with other seasoned, as well as aspiring, photographers helped Crisostomo hone his skills before finally graduating from the University in 1982, earning a Bachelor’s degree in photojournalism.

After college, Crisostomo joined the Detroit Free Press based in Detroit, Michigan, and soon began receiving recognition for his work from the Associated Press, The News Press Photographers Association, the Society of Newspaper Designers and the Robert F. Kennedy Awards.  In 1987 and 1988 he was named Michigan Photographer of the Year and was nominated three times for the coveted Pulitzer Prize in feature photography, which he finally won in 1989.  Only 30 years old at the time, Crisostomo’s prize-winning work was the result of a special section published by the Detroit Free Press in June 1988 entitled, “A Class Act, The Life and Times of Southwestern High School.”  It featured more than 60 photographs that documented the life, successes, and struggles of students at Southwestern High School who came from racially diverse inner-city neighborhoods where drugs, violence, and economic hardship were common.  Crisostomo donated the $3,000 Pulitzer Prize money to Detroit’s Southwestern High School for a journalism scholarship and other opportunities for students.

In 1989, Crisostomo received an Honorary Doctorate degree from the University of Guam.  In 1991, Crisostomo took a sabbatical from the Detroit Free Press, returned to the island and produced the coffee-table book, Legacy of Guam: I Kustumbren Chamoru, featuring numerous photographs of Guam’s landscape and indigenous Chamorros practicing their culture and customs.  While working on Legacy of Guam, Crisostomo taught photojournalism at the University of Guam.  In 1995, he began publishing Latte Magazine, a monthly publication highlighting life on Guam and Micronesia.  The magazine allowed Crisostomo to do more writing and editing, in addition to storytelling.  In order to diversify, Crisostomo, opened an art gallery to market and sell fine art from around the Pacific region.

However, in 2001, Crisostomo moved to California.  He taught courses in photojournalism and design for a year at San Francisco State University and California State University at Hayward.  More recently, Crisostomo has worked as Multimedia Editor at The Sacramento Bee where he was also a senior photographer since 2002.  In 2005, he won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for the Disadvantaged in international photography for his photo project on Hmong refugees.  Entitled, “The Leftover People,” Crisostomo documented the last wave of Hmong refugees making their way from Thailand to Sacramento for new lives, hopes and futures in the United States.

Crisostomo has credited his ability to speak easily with different kinds of people, to learn their stories and to photograph them, as important to his success.  In addition to exploring innovative photographic techniques, such as digitally stitching panoramic images and high dynamic range (HDR) photography, Crisostomo has also worked in video for the Sacramento Bee.  His work in videography earned Crisostomo the McClatchy President’s Award for his four-part series on rising childhood obesity entitled, “The Weight.”  The series focused on students of the first-ever weight loss boarding school for teens in California.  He also received an EPpy Award in 2007, presented by Editor & Publisher for the best media-affiliated websites, for “The Weight.”  Crisostomo continues to stay on the cutting edge of photojournalism, researching new technologies and discovering ways to push multimedia and storytelling in new and exciting directions.

By James Perez Viernes and Dominica Tolentino

For further reading

Crisostomo, Manny.  Legacy of Guam: i Kostumbren Chamoru.  Legacy Publications, Hagåtña, Guam, 1991.

Crisostomo, MannyPhotojournalist portfolio. (Accessed 15 June 2012)

“The Weight” 2007 EPpy Award & McClatchy President’s Award. (Accessed 15 June 2012)

“The Leftover People” 2005 Robert F. Kennedy Award for the Disadvantaged. (Accessed 15 June 2012)

The Weight: A Sacramento Bee Special Report. (Accessed 15 June 2012)

Guam Humanities Council, Picturing Guam Teachers Resource Book, 2011. (Accessed 15 June 2012)

Leon-Guerrero, Jillette, Seeing Guam Through Our Eyes, Guamology Publishing, Agana Heights, Guam, 2010. (Accessed 15 June 2012)

Tira, Peter and Louise Mercurio,  1989 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Photography: “A Class Act, The Life and Times of Southwestern High School.” (Accessed 15 June 2012)