This is the second in a series of regular posts introducing you to the journalists who report the news.

Share story

The camaraderie, affection and admiration between Seattle Times journalists Erika Schultz and Tyrone Beason are obvious when you get them in a room together. After years of collaborating on projects for Pacific NW magazine — stories about homelessness, the changing Central District and immigrants searching for homes, to name a few — the two are enthusiastic and heartfelt when talking about the respect they have for each other’s work.

Their titles are magazine reporter (Beason) and photojournalist (Schultz), but each thinks of the other as a documentarian — there to capture, without judgment, the stories of Seattle-area residents and communities.

It’s not the only thing they agree on:

Q: What do you like about working with Erika?

Tyrone: I’ve gotten to watch her really grow into this role. [Schultz joined the paper in 2006, Beason in 1995.] A real relationship was born because of these collaborations. What I really remember about her from back in the early days is that she was very quiet but a very good observer. She was always watching and taking notes. It’s not the camera or the notebook. It’s the camera and the notebook…There’s a lot going on behind those quiet eyes, and I appreciate the lack of noise, the contemplation that goes into the work. She allows herself to take a few breaths and really be there. To be present. She’s not to be underestimated. She’s always working, always looking, trying to find those interesting people out there.

Q: Same question…

Erika: He will go out and doesn’t have any preconceived notions about what a story is. Tyrone reports things on the ground and in the streets…I feel like Tyrone needs to meet almost everybody he writes about face-to-face, to actually walk through their lives. I find that really refreshing because photographers have to do that, and it adds layers of authenticity, sensitivity and nuance to his writing. He’s a true documentarian in that sense.

Q: Have Erika’s photos changed the direction of your stories?

Tyrone: Almost always. She has a way of looking at the world and capturing people that is all her own. I’m always open to things that she can offer that expand the idea that I might have started with. At the same time, if there’s something I need for the story, I feel comfortable telling her that, too. It’s a relationship of equals. It’s very much a shared experience. We’ll often decompress after seeing something that moved us in a way that we didn’t expect, and we talk about our feelings a lot with each other. We often feel the same things, and that’s really nice.

Q: What was the first story you worked on together?

At dusk, the Great Wheel on the Seattle waterfront offers glimmering, dramatic views of the downtown skyline and Elliott Bay. The climate-controlled gondolas shield passengers from the elements, giving riders a chance to see the city in all of its moods. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

Tyrone: One of the first things we did together was on water. On how water affects the mood and culture of Seattle. It was a high-concept story. It was hard to explain. But when I explained it, she basically went out on her own and got pictures for that. I told her a couple of things I had done that were kind of kooky — like I rode a ferris wheel at night in the rain and just watched the drops of water roll down the capsule. Now you try to write a photo request for that: People think you’re crazy! And she probably did think I was crazy, but she did it, too. And so it wound up being one of my favorite pictures. You’re looking at the city through raindrops with all of that shimmer and glow. She found a way to match my craziness.

Q: How do you come up with ideas?

Erika: We have a brainstorming meeting, and then Tyrone will do some reporting; I’ll do some reporting. And I really appreciate Tyrone on a really deep level. I hope I’ve told you [Tyrone] this before, but you are really open if I have sources or have ideas. Sometimes I feel like photographers have been considered “less than” in a traditional reporting landscape, seen as offering pretty images versus offering significant reporting or sourcing for stories. I really appreciate that Tyrone values working as a team in the brainstorming, reporting and execution of the story.

Tyrone: You have to be very visual with the magazine. What is it going to look like? It’s good to bounce ideas off you because I’m not a photographer. I’m using words to create pictures in my mind. So that’s what I’m trying to talk about in the story conferences…you’re composing stories with light and shadow in the real world, and that is not easy to do. I think that informs my writing. Quite often when I’m struggling with a piece and can’t meet my deadline, when I see the pictures that you’ve taken, then I can finish the story. There’ll be something that you captured that I’m like “ahhh.”

Q: You both have an interest in doing stories on diverse communities. Is that part of what makes you click?

Tyrone: I think so because we’re both curious people. We both like going into communities that are not like our own. We understand the value of that in an urban environment. It’s important to have your priorities in line as a journalist. It’s important when you’re collaborating, that whoever’s on that team, that all your priorities are in line as well. It’s very easy for us. We’re both overly sensitive people. And maybe the reason for her quiet is because she’s always absorbing.

Q: Do you have a favorite story you’ve worked on together?

Erika: One of the most gratifying stories we’ve worked on recently was the journal project within the homeless community. There was a level of participation and buy-in that we don’t always have in our stories. People got to write their own stories and some chose their own images. Almost everyone we talked to — 70 or 80 percent — said “this is really cool.” They were very excited about participating; they got to help shape how they were depicted or portrayed, which is something we don’t always do at a newspaper. We were trying something out of the box. Our goal should be to surprise our readers with new or interesting approaches to storytelling.

Pacific NW magazine invited residents of several homeless encampments in Seattle to share their personal stories. “You must help us leave the streets,” Blas Felix, who used to pick cherries and apples in Eastern Washington, wrote in a journal entry for the project. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

Tyrone: The idea was to capture the life of the homeless community but to do journalism in its purest sense — to create a journal, a print publication, our own public document. The subjects wrote their own inscriptions. I wrote an essay, but it was your pictures and then their words on those pages. So even if seattletimes.com shut down tomorrow, there is literally a book with the work that you did…

Erika: That we did.

Tyrone: …that exists. That’s a tangible thing that also looks great in a print magazine, looks great online and that is an actual book that is so compelling. To share that idea with you, you never even questioned it. You just ran with it.

Q: Have you noticed any quirks about the other?

Tyrone: I’m all quirks.

Erika: No, I don’t think you have any quirks. You like beauty, and you see beauty in all sorts of ways. That is very much like a photographer, a cinematographer. I think that you laugh a lot and see a lot of humor. You have a lot of passion toward life. You think about writing in beautiful ways. You speak in poetry. You put people at ease right away.

Tyrone: You’re patient with people. You don’t rush people through pictures. You take a lot of pictures.

Erika: I take so many pictures. Too many pictures.

Tyrone: But the reason you’re doing that is because you know that sometimes the first thing you see isn’t what’s there. Or you see there’s a lot more that you can get. So it may seem a little quirky to the subject — sometimes the subject will look at me like, “Tyrone, will this woman stop taking my picture?” — but I say, “She’s the best in the business. There’s a reason why she’s doing this.”

Notable collaborations between Tyrone Beason and Erika Schultz

Portraits of Homelessness

This amazing series offers a gritty and intimate perspective of life inside the makeshift communities springing up across the Puget Sound region. Beason and Schultz visited some of these outdoor settlements and the people who live there, allowing you a glimpse into their world.


Seattle’s vanishing black community

The vibrant Central District was more than 70 percent black in the 1960s and early ’70s. Today, African Americans represent less than a fifth of the neighborhood’s population as the city’s tech boom raises the cost of living. As the neighborhood’s African-American community moves away, people who have lived there for decades are feeling a sense of loss and wondering what’s next.


Baba, a 45-year-old father from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, holds his 4-month-old twins Elizabeth and Ezechiel at a Mary’s Place overnight shelter in Seattle. Baba fled political persecution in the Congo in hopes of finding a safe and secure place to raise his children. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

Unsettled: Immigrants search for their forever homes in Seattle

Families come to America hoping to make a better life for their kids. Then they hit a new challenge: navigating a regional housing crisis that’s difficult even for more well-off residents.


Finding light in Seattle’s winter darkness requires an attitude adjustment

When daylight is precious, nighttime overstays its welcome and cloud cover hangs over us like felted wool, living in the Puget Sound region can feel like navigating a series of darkened rooms. And it’s not just our eyes that need time to adjust; so does our point of view.


LeRoy Johns of Sisters, Ore., loads his net on the Pacific Rose in Seattle’s Fishermen’s Terminal, where the city’s historic status as a maritime hub still rings true. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

We are water: In it, on it, around it all the time, it shapes us

Let the rain come down unimpeded. Let the water drip from our chins and soak our hair and ruin all but the most weatherproof gear. There’s a romance to our waterlogged town that only starts with the killer views offered by myriad bays, waterways and lakes.


Want to get insider interviews like this emailed to you days before other readers see them? Become a subscriber!

Curious about a particular staffer? Let us know at ljacobson@seattletimes.com.