A Maddening Passion

You quickly understanding after meeting Carlos Javier Ortiz that he’s driven by a deep passion.

The kind that afflicts good journalists and especially good photographers.

A passion for the story and then for being there, listening, hearing and witnessing.

A passion for believing that telling the story overcomes all other setbacks and challenges and goes beyond the personal rewards of doing so.

Carlos has been documenting violence in Chicago for a number of years now.

And despite the soul-deadening weight of this situation, he persists.

He persists with an eye that I think is unequaled in telling the story of Chicago’s


Writing about Carlos in the daily Lens column of the New York Times, David Gonzalez recently said:

Indeed, when Hadiya Pendleton was killed, Mr. Ortiz was already into his seventh year documenting how violence affected families, primarily in Chicago, where he was raised and now lives. From the sidewalk memorials and the anti-violence rallies to the homes left broken or the wounded trying to recover, he was there. After an October workshop sequencing and editing his images at Red Hook Editions, he is now preparing a book and has started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $10,000 to finance its publication. (A 2011 campaign, as well as exhibitions, allowed him to pursue the project and produce video.)

The book’s title, “We All We Got,” is a nod to a theme running throughout the work.

“People still live though it,” said Mr. Ortiz, a member of Facing Change, an organization of documentary photographers. “People still living through all this, that’s the challenging part.”

His own interest in the topic came from personal experience growing up in the 1990s in Chicago, where his family settled after shuttling between Puerto Rico and the mainland United States. He had gone to high school with kids who had been beaten or stabbed, or who dropped out of school to hang out on the streets. But the violence back then was nothing compared to what he was seeing in recent years. And the victims seemed to be getting younger and younger.

Here’s the link to the column:


We are fortunate to have people like Carlos who do not look the other way, but rather look deeper and with all their soul.

talk to me.carlos





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