AAPI Heritage Month: James Tensuan

headshotJames Tensuan is a Sophomore at San Jose State University studying journalism. His interest in photography began with a book by Dorothea Lange and a film camera. Since then, he has worked for the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the PBS NewsHour, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Courier-Journal as a Chips Quinn Scholar. SFBAPPA recently honored him with the Luci S. Williams Houston Memorial Award as the runner-up to the Student Photographer of the Year.

James Tensuan

How long have you been in photojournalism?

I’ve been working for newspapers since I was 16-years-old. I got my start in photojournalism while working for the Mountain View Voice–my town’s weekly paper.

How and why did you decide to become a photojournalist?

I recall looking at Dorothea Lange’s work and being completely captivated by her style. I didn’t know at the time that it was photojournalism, but I knew that was the type of photography I wanted to do.

What do you love most about photography?

I get to take pictures every day! It also allows me to explore my community and be out in the open. I really enjoy challenging myself every day to become a better photographer.

How has being an AAPI helped/hurt your photojournalism career?

Being an AAPI has really helped with access while working in the Bay Area. There have been a number of times where families have been hesitant about talking to the media, but once they find out that I’m half Filipino then we immediately have something to bond over.

What advice did you wish someone gave you when you were starting out?

Set your personal standards high–higher than what your editors might expect of you. Really push yourself to make interesting images and really be confident in what you’re doing. Fake it ’til you make it!

tensuan_photos_021A scene from the 57th Presidential Inauguration. (James Tensuan | PBS NewsHour)


A scene from the 57th Presidential Inauguration. (James Tensuan | PBS NewsHour)


The line to Ben’s Chili Bowl wraps around the block prior to the Presidential Inauguration. (James Tensuan | PBS NewsHour)

James, 650.861.2427

An officer watches as a flag is put up at the in front of the HP Pavilion on Thursday, March 7.  A memorial for Sgt. Loran “Butch” Baker and Elizabeth Chase Butler was held at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. (James Tensuan | The San Francisco Chronicle)


A mourner looks on at a memorial site in Santa Cruz, Calif.  (James Tensuan | The San Francisco Chronicle)

James, 650.861.2427

A student form West Portola Elementary School make her way down the street during the Chinese New Year parade on Saturday, Feb. 23. (James Tensuan | The San Francisco Chronicle)


Gus Lease blows out the candles on his birthday cake. (James Tensuan | Spartan Daily )


A nurse tends a premature baby at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, CA. (James Tensuan | Shift Magazine )

James, 650.861.2427

Shelly Martinez gets dragged off by Alexis Doreuko as they go head to head in the ring on Friday, March 1.  Hoodslam takes place on the first Friday of every month at the Oakland Metro Operahouse. (James Tensuan | The San Francisco Chronicle)


Boxers connect during a match in Havana, Cuba. (James Tensuan | San Jose State University)