Carlos Ortiz, a photographer who grew up witnessing the near-constant gun violence in Chicago, decided to document the bloody aftermath in a photography project he calls “Too Young to Die.” The project is aptly named; Ortiz feels that Chicago’s gang violence strikes down people – many of them innocent – in their prime.
Ortiz has been documenting the carnage over the past six years. He listens to a police scanner at night and then arrives at the scene of the crime. He often follows victims and their families for extended periods of time to capture each step of the painful journey – from the police taping off the scene to relatives mopping up blood.
Ortiz hopes that his photographs will connect people to the victims and the intensity of the tragedy. He told reporters, "If people don't look like you, then, you know, you always say, 'That always happens to those people.'"
One case in particular has captured Ortiz’s attention. Ondelee Perteet was shot in the face by a 15-year-old boy when he was 14. The bullet damaged his spinal cord, forcing his mother, Deetreena, to become his fulltime caregiver over the past three years. Ondelee has been working through the injury ever since and he is almost ready to graduate high school.
Ortiz remarked, "But what I am more struck by is his resilience," he adds. "You know, he is teaching me how to think about living."
Ortiz’s photos might also prompt viewers to think about living. His haunting black and white photos are heartbreaking at times, portraying the tears and lengthy recoveries that often follow acts of gun violence.
While Americans might not always agree on whether or not guns are to blame for this violence, we can all agree that scenes like these are truly tragic. If Ortiz is successful, his photos will inspire Americans to promote positive change against gun violence.
You can find Ortiz’s official gallery here.