By SAMUEL MARTINEZ, age 12

Through her work, DeCesare learned that gang violence is often both a symptom and a cause of the trauma that the young subjects of her photos had to deal with. PHOTO: Donna DeCesare
Through her work, DeCesare learned that gang violence is often both a symptom and a cause of the trauma that the young subjects of her photos had to deal with. PHOTO: Donna DeCesare

Photojournalist Donna DeCesare’s newly released bilingual book, Unsettled/Desasosiego: Children in a World of Gangs, uses photography to capture lives caught up in gang violence. She took her photos both in Central America during and after the civil wars of the 1980s, and in the refugee communities in Los Angeles, Calif., that resulted from them.

The book also tells the stories behind the photographs which show the effect of the civil wars in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua on gang members in the United States, as well as in their home countries.

Through her work, DeCesare learned that gang violence is often both a symptom and a cause of the trauma that the young subjects of her photos had to deal with. She sees a purpose for this activist photojournalism, “We need to see these young people as they truly are—children who have been burdened with so much that is painful from an early age and whose fragile hopes and dreams are being thwarted,” she said in the New York Times blog, “Lens.”

DeCesare is not the only person doing this type of work. Photojournalism is often used as a form of activism to spread ideas and tell stories. Lourdes Jeannette, a photographer born in Puerto Rico, recently began photographing gang violence in her family, trying to expose that way of life and its overall effect on her family and society.

In an interview with FotoEvidence, DeCesare explained her relationship with photojournalism: “I see journalism and photography as a bridge—as a way to cross from one reality to another—that can alter your perception but it can also alter perceptions both ways.”