Carlos Javier Ortiz: We All We Got examines youth violence in Chicago and Philadelphia over the course of eight years (PHOTOS).

A Look at How Youth Violence Affects Communities in Philadelphia and Chicago

A Look at How Youth Violence Affects Communities in Philadelphia and Chicago

Behold
The Photo Blog
Jan. 7 2015 11:00 AM

A Look at How Youth Violence Affects Communities in Philadelphia and Chicago

Albert Vaughn was the neighborhood guardian, the older teenager who would play ball with the younger kids and try to keep them safe from trouble. About 50 of his friends and family members gathered to remember “Lil Al” on the block where he was killed. Englewood, Chicago, 2008
Albert Vaughn was the neighborhood guardian, the older teenager who would play ball with the younger kids and try to keep them safe from trouble. About 50 of his friends and family members gathered to remember “Lil Al” on the block where he was killed. Englewood, Chicago, 2008.

Carlos Javier Ortiz

Carlos Javier Ortiz began working on what would become his series “We All We Got” in 2006, when stray bullets in Chicago killed two young girls—one was celebrating her 11th birthday in her home, the other was getting ready to go to school.

Ortiz wanted to tell the entire story of youth violence that focused on both the despair and resilience of the affected communities. He began introducing himself to the people who lived in neighborhoods in Chicago and Philadelphia where youth violence had occurred and asked if he could photograph them.

“I think all the times I’ve been out, I’ve had not even a handful of people say not now,” Ortiz said. “For the most part, people are cool, they wanted me to understand there pain and suffering, that’s the feeling I got. I really didn’t have any resistance, I had more from the police in a way, they didn’t want me there sometimes, they didn’t want stuff documented because it looks bad on the city and government, but some cops were really cool. They said come in and document this because these communities need attention. It was a mixed bag.”

PG 128-129: Father Mike of St. Sabina Church hugs young men who work to break the cycle of violence during a prayer service. Auburn Gresham, Chicago, 2013
Father Mike of St. Sabina Church hugs young men who work to break the cycle of violence during a prayer service. Auburn Gresham, Chicago, 2013.

Carlos Javier Ortiz

Girls in the Englewood neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side attend a block party to celebrate the lives of Starkeisha Reed, 14, and Siretha White, 12. Starkeisha and Siretha were killed days apart in March 2006. The girls’ mothers were friends, and both grew up on Honore Street, where the celebration took place. Englewood, Chicago, 2008.
Girls in the Englewood neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side attend a block party to celebrate the lives of Starkeisha Reed, 14, and Siretha White, 12. Englewood, Chicago, 2008.

Carlos Javier Ortiz

Ondelee Perteet picks up his prom date. After struggling for yea,Ondelee Perteet picks up his prom date. After struggling for years with a spinal cord injury, Ondelee makes it to his high school prom. He graduated two weeks later. Bronzeville, Chicago, 2011
Ondelee Perteet picks up his prom date. After struggling for years with a spinal cord injury, Ondelee makes it to his high school prom. He graduated two weeks later. Bronzeville, Chicago, 2011.

Carlos Javier Ortiz

Advertisement

While working on We All We Got, now a book published by Red Hook Editions, Ortiz said speaking with his wife, who is a professor with a Ph.D. in social welfare, helped him navigate the different pieces of the puzzle that make up why youth violence happens. While he understands that racism, poverty, and the war on drugs are all huge factors, for many just getting through the daily grind can be an overwhelmingly deflating existence.

Although he said he would have liked to have been able to photograph in Ferguson, Missouri, after Michael Brown was fatally shot, not being able to hang out with the families there wouldn’t have allowed him to create a series like “We All We Got.”

“I like to document the things that are not being looked at, I like to shed light on these things. You can’t do it all, but this is what I can contribute to hopefully bring some kind of understanding,” he said.

PG: 96-97: The mother of Fakhur Uddin, a 20-year old college stu,PG: 96-97: The mother of Fakhur Uddin, a 20-year old college student who was bound with duct tape and shot in the back of the head inside his family’s Philadelphia store, collapses to the ground and weeps as police investigate the scene. Germantown, Philadelphia, 2008.
The mother of Fakhur Uddin, a 20-year-old college student who was bound with duct tape and shot in the back of the head inside his family’s Philadelphia store, collapses to the ground and weeps as police investigate the scene. Germantown, Philadelphia, 2008.

Carlos Javier Ortiz

Siretha White’s family and friends lay flowers on her casket at her funeral. The shootings of 10-year-old Siretha, only eight days after the shooting of 14-year-old Starkeisha Reed, saddened and shocked the community. Both deaths were a result of gang violence with assault weapons. Englewood, Chicago, 2006.
Siretha White’s family and friends lay flowers on her casket at her funeral. The shootings of 10-year-old Siretha happened only eight days after the shooting of 14-year-old Starkeisha Reed. Both deaths were a result of gang violence with assault weapons. Englewood, Chicago, 2006.

Carlos Javier Ortiz

He pointed to the work of Dorothea Lang, Gordon Parks, and Josef Koudelka as influences; photographers who, even while documenting people living through extremely difficult times still managed to show a sense of pride in their subjects.*

Advertisement

“Bad things that happen to people. Most of the time, what I see in the communities, there is peace between the war,” he said. “But then the struggle continues. Maybe someone stole your car. Maybe you lost a family member but in a short period of time there is a sense that you need to get back to normal, to get away from the pain. And strangely enough you would see it right away even though the pain is always there, you would see a sense of resilience and love right away.” 

“It could have been easy for me to exploit the gang life or just photograph the nitty-gritty all the time which is in front of us and behind us and around us. But I wanted to show how people lived in spaces and how they communicated with the world surrounding them. I wanted to show resilience, love, joy and what happens to people when violence destroys their communities”

“We All We Got” will be on view at the Bronx Documentary Center in New York City beginning Jan. 24.

PG 90-91: Siretha White’s friends and family gather to celebra,PG 90-91: Siretha White’s friends and family gather to celebrate what would have been her 18th birthday. Englewood, Chicago, 2013
Siretha White’s friends and family gather to celebrate what would have been her 18th birthday. Englewood, Chicago, 2013.

Carlos Javier Ortiz

PG: 146-147: Families pray together on the West Side of Chicago ,PG: 146-147: Families pray together on the West Side of Chicago to remember a young girl who was raped and murdered. Parents who have lost their children to violence often come together to support other families who have experienced a similar tragedy. North Lawndale, Chicago, 2008
Families pray together on the West Side of Chicago to remember a young girl who was raped and murdered. Parents who have lost their children to violence often come together to support other families who have experienced a similar tragedy. North Lawndale, Chicago, 2008.

Carlos Javier Ortiz

Balloons are released in memory of Siretha White and Starkeisha Reed during a block party on South Marshfield Avenue and West 69th Street. Englewood, Chicago, 2009.
Balloons are released in memory of Siretha White and Starkeisha Reed during a block party on South Marshfield Avenue and West 69th Street. Englewood, Chicago, 2009.

Carlos Javier Ortiz

*Correction, Jan. 7, 2015: This post originally misspelled Josef Koudelka’s last name as Kouldelka.

David Rosenberg is the editor of Slate’s Behold blog. He has worked as a photo editor for 15 years and is a tennis junkie. Follow him on Twitter.