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Archive for the ‘Gang Culture’ Category

The Burden of Memory: John Trotter and Donna DeCesare

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“The camera relieves us of the burden of memory. It surveys us like god.”

-John Berger

Donna DeCesare, winner of the 1999 International Fund for Documentary Photography, has focused her work on and the effects of violence, gang culture, war, and trauma on youth. Her IFDP winning photo essay, titled: Shadow Dreams and New Youth Visions, explored the intersecting worlds of gangs in Los Angeles and El Salvador where young adults experience the some of the highest rates of homicide. Some of her other projects include, Sharing Secrets: Children’s Portraits Exposing Stigma, Crimes of War and Edgar’s Story.

As the Dart Media Curator and the Latin America Coordinator for the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, DeCesare recently produced a multimedia piece with photographer John Trotter about his personal experience with violence. While photographing for the Sacramento Bee, Trotter was attacked and suffered a severe brain injury that took months to recover from. As a way to process his trauma, Trotter took images of other patients at the rehab center, which DeCesare combined with her interview of Trotter speaking about his emotions. The effect: compassion into Trotters trauma and admiration for his exceptionally sad and haunting images.

burden_of_memory Please click here to watch the video interview:

The video was made by the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, John Trotter, Donna DeCesare and Joey Castillo. The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, a project of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, is dedicated to informed, innovative and ethical news reporting on violence, conflict and tragedy. The John Trotter piece is part of Dart Media, a gallery of visual storytelling, highlighting exemplary work that advances the conversation about how to witness, interpret and represent violence and suffering.

Written by Zara Katz

July 23, 2009 at 3:32 pm

Photo Fund Winner Update: Joseph Rodriguez

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rodriguez_screenJoseph Rodriguez believes that photography gave him a second chance to be a productive member of society after a personal experience with the prison system in his younger years. This first hand knowledge compelled him to embark on a series of documentary projects in the juvenile justice system, examine street life in Harlem, look at the effects of homelessness, and become deeply involved with the gangs of East Los Angeles. After a year of photographing the family life of the gangs of East L.A., Rodriguez won the FiftyCrows International Fund for Documentary Photography in 1993. The project focused on the origin of gang life, which was often rooted in three generations of gang members.


Rodriguez’s international work includes projects in Mexico, Cuba, Kurdistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Romania, Zambia, and Mauritius. Post Hurricane Katrina, Rodriguez has had several exhibitions of his work in the south called “Engulfed by Katrina: Photographs Before and After the Storm” and a book in 2008 titled, “Still Here: Stories After Katrina.”

Now Rodriguez is back to focusing on the United States Criminal Justice System by exploring the process of reentry into society after time in prison. The “Reentry Project” in Los Angeles comes from a recent Pew Center on the States study, which reported that between prison, jail, and parole, 1 in every 31 adults is under some form of correctional control.

Rodriguez states, “As a photojournalist I felt compelled to humanize these statistics. At Walden House, a local drug and alcohol treatment center operating for 38 years in the state of California, I took it upon myself to photograph and interview residents, many of whom have been repeat offenders. Its program has evolved into a national leader in developing strategies to help addicts recover and maintain their lives. Today it helps treat more than 3,400 men, women, and children daily.”

Written by Zara Katz

June 23, 2009 at 11:17 am