Balloons are released in memory of Siretha White and Starkeisha Reed, Englewood, Chicago, 2009. ©Carlos Javier Ortiz

Carlos Javier Ortiz, a photojournalist and filmmaker who has documented the effects of violence in Chicago for more than a decade, has been named one of four winners of the 2017 Studs Terkel Community Media Award. He is one of few photographers to win the award since it began in 1994. Past awards have gone mostly to reporters, columnists and broadcast journalists.

Other 2017 award winners include the Chicago newsroom of Univision, Cate Cahan of Chicago public radio station WBEZ, and Chicago Tribune reporter Steven M. Mills.

The winners reflect “Chicago journalism at its best: strong, innovative, vibrant and solid,” said Susy Schultz in a prepared statement. Schultz is president of Public Narrative, the non-profit organization that sponsors the awards. She added, “These [award winners] and their work not only reflect Studs’ practice of elevating all-too-often unheard voices, but, like Studs, they are dogged practitioners of great storytelling.”

Ortiz says he was pleasantly surprised when Public Narrative called to inform him of the award. “It means a lot to me,” he says. “I met Studs once, and I learned from his style of listening and interviewing. His book Working influenced my work, in how he looked for working class people to paint a picture of who they are.”

Ortiz has been working for more than a decade on “We All We Got.” It tells the stories of individuals, and the toll on their daily lives of social despair, poverty, inequality, drugs, failing schools and other challenges. “It’s not just about the gun [violence]. That’s the final element,” he told PDN in 2013. The stories are about fear and loss, but “also about hope, love and resilience,” he said. (Ortiz published the project as a book in 2014.)

The Studs Terkel Awards, which are for journalists at any stage of their career, recognize a body of work. They are meant to spotlight journalists who take risks covering community issues, who “elevate people, not power,” and who look for solutions, not simply name problems. Winners are selected by a committee of past winners.

Public Narrative’s mission is to diversify voices in the news, connect communities with the media, and improve issue reporting, according to its website.

Related:
Picture Story: Too Young to Die
How Top Photographers Conquer Self-Doubt, Part 3


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