By Raven Icaza/Loyola School of Communication Reporter
The award-winning documentary series, “Too Young to Die,” by photographer Carlos Javier Ortiz is set to be featured beginning Friday at the Loyola University Chicago School of Communication.
The Too Young to Die Exhibit opening will be held Friday, January 27, 2012, from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm and will be displayed on the first and second floor as well as lower level of the School of Communication.
“Too Young to Die” is a documentary photography project illustrating the shocking statistics of youth violence in major U.S. cities. For Ortiz, the documentary “personalizes” the stories of those affected by violence, most notably, gun violence.
While covering crime in Chicago for a separate project in 2000, Ortiz was moved to start his own collection of images.
“I was going to the crime scenes. The victims were young kids and it really started bothering me seeing kids mourning their friends,” Ortiz said. In 2006, he began his now five year in-depth project.
The photos range from mourning families and friends to gruesome crime scenes. Despite the intimate dynamic between Ortiz and his work, he has not become desensitized.
“It’s all out of the ordinary having to see young people killed or going to their friends funerals.”
He refers to this situation as a “war.” His website, carlosjortiz.com, shares statistics about the devastating number of deaths suffered by young people, stating, “[t]ragically, on average, sixteen youth between the ages of 10 and 24 are killed in the United States every day (CDC, 2009) as a result of gun violence. This is more than the number of American servicemen lost each year in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Ortiz also called attention to the disparate social and economic situations of these individuals, noting the poverty level incomes of families in areas like Englewood. According to City-Data.com, the median household income for Englewood residents in 2009 was $22, 131.000.
“Black and Hispanics are dealing with this- it’s something that is avoided by the public,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz finds a lack of awareness by the general public, as well over-sensationalized media, as contributing factors to the neglect of this situation.
“You’ll see a kid, and kids are all God’s children, kidnapped. If they’re not white and blonde, they don’t make the news,” Ortiz said.
Using his photography, Ortiz hopes to encourage confrontation and action.
“I think I want people to feel it’s not so distant from them— to really think about the problems and deal with it now. Deal with poverty, lack of good schools, and parents deal with their children. It’s a big quagmire we need to address and start investing. It’s not just one person’s problem, it’s everyone’s problem.”
The School of Communication is just one destination Ortiz would like Too Young to Die showcased. His goal is to put out a book and have his work travel from city to city.