Carlos Ortiz: All We Got
Carlos Ortiz and I are united for life as fellow 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship recipients living and working and in the Bay Area. Even before this coincidence, we’d fall into meaningful conversations about photography over stacks of Polaroids he was scanning or the insane quantities of exhibition prints I was making. We are both former Rayko Photo Center Artists-In-Residents and share a belief that a photograph can transport someone toward new perspectives and experiences. Carlos and his wife both teach at the University of California Berkeley, though most of his work is made within African American neighborhoods in Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and other communities nationwide. He is a documentarian through and through, crossing between film and photography to connect audiences to teen violence and the Great Migration’s lasting legacy.
Carlos Javier Ortiz is a director, cinematographer and documentary photographer who focuses on urban life, gun violence, racism, poverty and marginalized communities. In 2016, Carlos received a Guggenheim Fellowship for film/video. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally in a variety of venues including the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts; the International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, NY; the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago; the Detroit Institute of Arts; and the Library of Congress.
In addition, his photos were used to illustrate Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article The Case for Reparations (2014), which was featured in Atlantic Magazine‘s best selling issue in its history. His photos have also been published in The New Yorker, Mother Jones, among many others.
His film, We All We Got, uses images and sounds to convey a community’s deep sense of loss and resilience in the face of gun violence. We All We Got has been screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, Los Angeles International Film Festival, St. Louis International Film Festival, CURRENTS Santa Fe International New Media Festival, and the Athens International Film + Video Festival.
Carlos’ current project is series of short films chronicling the contemporary stories of Black Americans who came to the North during the Great Migration. Beginning with his mother-in-law’s story, Carlos is exploring the legacy of the Great Migration a century after it began. For Carlos, who moved back and forth between Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland as a child, the story of displaced people in search of stability and economic opportunity resonates with his own.
Carlos’ work has been supported by many organizations including the University of Chicago Black Metropolis Research Consortium Short-term Fellowship (2015); the Economic Hardship Reporting Project (2015); the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting (2013); the California Endowment National Health Journalism Fellowship (2012); the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation (2011); Open Society Institute Audience Engagement Grant (2011); and the Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship Award (2011).
In addition to his photography and film, Carlos Javier has taught at Northwestern University and the University of California, Berkeley. He lives in Chicago and Oakland with his wife and frequent collaborator, Tina K. Sacks, a professor of social welfare at the University of California, Berkeley.
We All We Got
We All We Got explores the consequences and devastation of youth violence in contemporary America from 2006 to 2013, through a mix of powerful photographs, incisive essays and moving letters from diverse individuals affected by this perennial scourge.
My work provides an avenue for knowing these children and their families. This work is not the end of the conversation about youth violence and society’s complicity in it, but rather the beginning. The terror in the eyes of grieving children and inconsolable mothers only allows the viewer to begin to understand the toll that this reality takes on the children who live it.
The stories take place in Chicago and Philadelphia. By repeatedly returning to the same neighborhoods over the course of eight years, I show the plight of the communities with which he has built a deep connection. You see abandoned buildings, memorials for victims, segregation, graffiti, juvenile incarceration and other constant reminders of the outcomes of violence on young people and their surroundings.
But through all the heartbreak, you also see the incredible resilience of the individuals left behind. And where there is terror, there is also a glimpse of the innocence that remains and a tiny glimmer of hope.
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