CHICAGO
02/16/2011 08:56 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Too Young To Die: Documentary Photographer Looks At Chicago Violence (PHOTOS)

Carlos Javier Ortiz was a staff photographer on one of those ambitious millennial undertakings: "Chicago In The Year 2000" (CITY 2000), a documentary project meant to capture what the city looked like at the end of this century and think about how it might be at the turn of the next.

What he saw on the streets of Chicago, the city he'd called home since moving as a child from Puerto Rico, was not a glorious vision of the future, but a vicious circle of violence. At crime scene after crime scene, he found children the victims -- and sometimes the perpetrators -- of brutal murders.

"I'd seen it in high school," Ortiz told HuffPost Chicago. "I went to a Chicago public high school. There were kids that didn't come back from summer. There were literally kids I sat next to who spent the rest of their lives in jail for murder."

The scenes Ortiz saw during his work with CITY 2000, though, were indelible. As his career in photojournalism took him to Philadelphia and Camden, NJ, he saw the same unmistakable patterns of violence in those cities, and decided to devote himself to bringing the experience of inner-city youth violence to light.

He spoke of the media attention given to events like the Tucson shootings or the massacre at Virginia Tech, where 32 people were killed. "The same year in Chicago, about the same number of kids were killed by gun violence in this city," he said. "We have a Virginia Tech in Chicago every year.

"It's not as big news, but it should be."

From this urge, the Too Young To Die project was born. In Ortiz's long-term documentary project, he plans to use images from crime-wracked communities to educate the public about the epidemic of youth violence in the country.

Ortiz has funded the project himself since its inception, but he's now looking for help to carry it across the finish line. He's hoping to fund a 30-minute film of interviews of those affected by violence, as well as a book of images and a traveling exhibition for schools and communities.

Check out some examples of Ortiz's work below, all courtesy of Carlos Javier Ortiz / FacingChange. To learn more about Too Young To Die, head to the project's website; to help support Carlos's work, click here.