Alumni & Friends

Eye on the Middle East

A girl looking through a gate in the middle east as a soldier walks by

''In that girl's face I can see something I recognize in myself,'' says Maya Alleruzzo, a photo editor for The Associated Press based in Cairo. ''I know what I would be thinking. I would be terrified.''

Keep calm and carry on. The catchphrase might well be the professional motto for war photojournalist-turned-photo editor Maya Alleruzzo (B.A., '95).

Whether shooting pictures in combat zones or orchestrating photo coverage from the frenzy of her office, The Associated Press' new regional Middle East photo editor manages to stay focused when others might fall apart.

Alleruzzo's boss credits his new Middle East photo editor, appointed in 2014, with a preternatural calm that serves her well in uneasy and chaotic situations, like the tumultuous days that followed Egypt's revolution of early 2011.

''What Maya exhibited was this intense concentration,'' says Santiago Lyon, vice president and director of photography at The AP. ''She didn’t at any time let the stress overwhelm her. She sort of dove in and came out the other side just fine.''

Working from The AP's Cairo office, Alleruzzo oversees more than 30 staff photographers and editors, plus dozens of freelancers who cover a volatile swath of the world that takes in the Middle East, parts of North Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It's dangerous, even deadly work. In 2014, the Middle East accounted for nearly half of the 60 journalists killed worldwide.

Not withstanding the inherent risks of the profession, and the grisly nature of much of the photography that comes out of the Middle East, Alleruzzo is doing exactly what she has dreamed of since her teenage years in Southern California.

''I always knew I wanted to be a photojournalist, to follow in the footsteps of some of the great war photographers,'' she says. ''I saw this book of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs, and I just remember the emotional impact of all those images and how cool it would be to witness history and tell those stories.''

Maya Alleruzzo

Alleruzzo, who joined The AP staff in 2007, documented the U.S. troop surge through the end of combat operations in Iraq and covered special operations forces fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

But she loves to train her lens on small and intimate subjects. Among her favorites is a photo of a young Iraqi girl warily eyeing a heavily armed U.S. soldier. ''I'm always looking for a person whose face can help me tell a story,'' Alleruzzo says.

At SF State, Alleruzzo studied under Professor Ken Kobre, from whom she learned the difficult art of narrative storytelling through pictures.

''That's the hardest thing to get right, telling a story in not just one photo but a set of pictures,'' she says. Kobre ''pushed me really hard, but I'm so glad that he did.''

Though she spends most of her time in the office these days, Alleruzzo relishes her role at the helm of a team that is recording history in the making.

''On any given day,'' she says, ''we can make some amazing and beautiful pictures.''


Photos courtesy of MAYA ALLERUZZO and AP IMAGES


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