Remembering Jessica Lum

January 25, 2013

photo by Andria Lo

Jess was a photo editor at Hyphen from 2009 to 2011. A prolific
photographer and multimedia journalist, she shared her talents with many
media organizations including Mission Local, where she was an editor, and the photography site PetaPixel.

While she dedicated herself to many projects and organizations, she always found the time for Hyphen.

Andria Lo, Hyphen’s director of photography, recalls interviewing Jess for the photo editor position in 2009. "I thought, ‘This gal is awesome and incredibly bright and savvy.’ It was hard to believe she was just coming out of her undergrad studies.”

Tireless and forward thinking, she impressed the Hyphen staff with her energy and range of work. She was quick to offer ideas and suggestions, or recommend a colleague for an assignment.

"Jess was a powerhouse,” says Erica Loh Jones, Hyphen’s former creative director. “Everything she contributed to Hyphen was imbued with an unmistakable sense of clarity and cheerfulness. She helped with art direction for the issue 19 cover shoot featuring Disgrasian. It’s still one of my favorite covers to date.”

Jessica Ann Lum was born in Sacramento in 1987, the younger of two daughters raised by Bob and Anna Lum. In 2008, during her senior year at UCLA, she was diagnosed with metastatic pheochromocytoma, a rare cancer.

In the fall of 2010, she entered the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. During her time there, she threw herself into projects that took her around the globe, from photographing residents of San Francisco's Mission District, to collaborating on an interactive feature about South Koreans for the Washington Post, to interning at the Los Angeles Times.

For her master’s project, she spent weeks in the southeastern California desert to produce Slab City Stories, a website of images and video about a community of squatters. The project won the Online News Association's Online Journalism Award and was featured on NPR for the respect she earned from her interview subjects.

At first, the Hyphen staff didn’t even know that Jess was battling cancer.

“I didn't realize she had any health issues until I'd known her for a couple months,” says Andria. “ It was close to the holidays when we were prepping an issue for the printers and she said she was working on the files from the hospital! Even that mention was really just a courtesy to let me know the files might be a tad late.”

“She was so generous with her time and energy. I hadn't known her for a long time when she asked me to write a letter of recommendation for her. I recall concluding, ‘She is definitely someone you want on your team.’ And I truly felt that."

Jess, we were lucky to have you on our team. Our world is brighter from having known you. Thank you. We miss you.


Written & compiled by Melissa Hung


More about Jessica from Mission Local and the Sacramento Bee.