An award-winning photographer, videographer and journalist with a focus on Latin American issues, Donna DeCesare joined the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin in the spring semester 2002 after a 20 year professional career as a freelance visual reporter covering stories in the US, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.
Early in her career she covered conflicts in Northern Ireland and in Central America. Based in El Salvador during the last years of that country’s civil war, DeCesare reported and photographed from the region for leading US and European newspapers. Among the many news and arts publications that have featured DeCesare’s photographs are: The New York Times Magazine, Life, Newsweek, The Atlantic, Mother Jones, DoubleTake, and Aperture. Since 1995, she also has worked as a video journalist and producer on numerous documentaries for The Learning Channel. “Killer Virus,” her first collaboration with TLC won an Emmy Award in 1996.
DeCesare is perhaps most widely known for her groundbreaking reportage on the spread of Los Angeles gangs in Central America, work which garnered significant competitive grant support and major national and international awards among them: an Alfred Eisenstadt magazine photography award (2000), a Canon photo essay award in Pictures of the Year (2000), and an award for reporting on criminal justice from the National Center on Crime and Delinquency. Her photographic memoir Unsettled / Desasociego: Children in a World of Gangs (2013) compliments her website Destiny's Children / Hijos del Destino (2010).
DeCesare's internationally competitive grants and fellowships include the Dorothea Lange Prize from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University (1993), a New York Foundation for the Arts photography grant (1996), an Alicia Patterson Fellowship (1997), the Mother Jones/Fifty Crows International Photo Fund grant (1999), a Soros Independent Project fellowship (2001), a (2005) Fulbright Fellowship and most recently an Open Society Foundations grant 2010-2011.
Current and Recent Highlights
DeCesare's photography is included in War / Photography, which opened at the Museum of Fine Art Houston, on November 11, 2012 and will be traveling to the: Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles, March 23 – June 2, 2013; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, June 29 - September 29, 2013; the Brooklyn Museum, November 8, 2013 - February 2, 2014
DeCesare's most recent one woman exhibition "Desarraigos" previously at the Museo Tecleño, Santa Tecla, El Salvador has in 2013 become part of the permanent photographic collection of the Universidad Centroamerica Jose Simeon Cañas (UCA) where it will be permanently installed in the Journalism School
BBC Mundo--Desarraigos-published a gallery of images from the exhibition in 2011. Other results of her 2011 Open Society Foundations Grant and about the Houses on the Moon play De Novo that DeCesare brought to El Salvador as well as results from her workshops with teenagers and University students can be seen at "Memoria, arte y derechos humanos
Smithsonian magazine featured DeCesare's photography in February 2010. The story, “Out of the Guatemalan Gang Culture, an Artist,” profiles a young man DeCesare met during her project Destiny's Children recording the spread of gang culture in Central America.
Professor DeCesare participated in the judging of the Freelance/Agency Division in the 67th Pictures of the Year International Photojournalism Contest held at the University of Missouri School of Journalism from Feb 20-27, 2010
Other projects, community service and workshop teaching
Since coming to the University of Texas, DeCesare has continued with several long term documentary projects. Her initial work on her ongoing project documenting narratives of loss and survival among those who have suffered paramilitary violence in Colombia was published on the Web site “Crimes of War” winning a top prize in the Best of Photojournalism in 2002.
A Fulbright fellowship and Dean’s leave in 2005 resulted in the 2006 exhibition series, “Sharing Secrets” currently traveling and formerly exhibited in New York, Washington, D.C., Korea, Poland and China. The photographs and testimonies from children in Guatemala and Colombia who are former child soldiers, survivors of sexual abuse, or who live with the stigma of HIV aided UNICEF in developing protocols for photographing children at risk.
A 2008 Mellon Summer research grant from the Lozano Long Center for Latin American studies provided vital support for her work photographing and teaching photography in a women’s prison in Colombia. The project resulted in a dual exhibition in the prison and at the Colombo Americano art gallery in Medellin. A Spanish language video by the Desearte Paz project highlights DeCesare's work and the exhibitions.
DeCesare coordinates Latin American outreach for the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University School of Journalism [read her curator’s statement] She has created an educational lecture, “Witnessing and Picturing Violence,” in spanish Ser Testigo featuring work from a variety to situations from conflicts to natural disasters to her work on women's prison project as a way to provoke discussion of ethical image making and ways to reach and include new audiences for documentary work.
DeCesare holds an M. Phil degree in Literature and Comparative Studies from the University of Essex in England. When she is not teaching at the University of Texas she lectures, exhibits, publishes and continues to photograph. She also finds time to mentor young photographers in other parts of the world conducting photography workshops for at-risk youth, journalism students and professional photojournalists in the US, Spain, China and most recently in 2011and 2012 in Latin America.
Donna DeCesare's new website:
J340J / J395.4 / LAS 322 / LAS 381.22 The Documentary Tradition in Latin America (Global Cultures Flag)
J334G / J395 Advanced Visual Journalism: Video (Independent Inquiry Flag, Ethics and Leadership Flag)
J362E / J387P A Cultural History of Photography
J311 Reporting with Images: Module B -- Verité Video storytelling
J316 Visual Communication ( Concepts, Critical thinking and Practice for Photojournalists)
J390P Advanced Visual Projects Seminar
Senior Fellows: Archive Detectives (Fall 2013)