Donna De Cesare Wins The Maria Moors Cabot Prize

Sep 6, 2013
De Cesare's new book is cover story of this month's NPPA News Photographer magazine.
De Cesare's new book is cover story of this month's NPPA News Photographer magazine.

NEW YORK, NY (September 5, 2013) – Documentary photojournalist Donna De Cesare, whose new book tells the story of the pain and grief created by El Salvador's murderous gangs and which is the cover story of this month's issue of News Photographer magazine, today was honored with the Maria Moors Cabot Prize, the world's oldest international journalism award.

Her book, Unsettled/Desasosiego: Children in a World of Gangs, has just been published by the University of Texas Press in Austin.

De Cesare will speak about her work in a master lecture on Wednesday, September 11, at the Corcoran in Washington, DC.

Founded in 1938, the Cabot Prize honors journalists who've covered the Western Hemisphere and added to inter-American understanding through their reportage. 

Also honored today with the Cabot Prize writer Jon Lee Anderson, reporter Mauri Konig, and magazine editor Alejandro Rubino Santos.

The winners received $5,000 and a medal during a ceremony at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in October.

In this month's News Photographer magazine cover story, reviewer Stephen Wolgast wrote:

"Donna De Cesare’s new book tells a story three ways. “Unsettled/Desasosiego” is her gripping record of the way civil wars in Central America led to disastrous effects that include the dispersal of families and the rise of ultraviolent gangs.

"Her black-and-white photographs of the families who bore the pain and grief of war and killings were taken during El Salvador’s civil war in the 1980s and 90s, telling the story of a broken nation. Soldiers patrol villages. Children cry in fear. Families escape the unpredictable violence, settling in Texas or California or Canada. 

"The second story focuses on the Salvadoran kids who embrace gangs and the violent world they live in. Unlike the civil war, gang killings respect no borders. Young Salvadorans die in Los Angeles just as they do back home.

"Her first-person recollections give us a third perspective. Written as a set of essays, De Cesare’s descriptions are sharp and vivid. You can tell that she not only covered her subjects’ struggles, she lived their struggles too. 

"Taking a point of view is part of a documentarian’s role. A photographer can’t fully reflect her subject’s point of view if she is professionally and emotionally detached. To tell the story, she has to live it to some degree.

"For De Cesare, that meant gaining the confidence of people who yielded their trust to strangers only reluctantly, trust being one casualty in a war where the enemy may be a shopkeeper or your neighbor."

An award-winning photographer, videographer and journalist with a focus on Latin American issues, De Cesare joined the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin in 2002 after a 20 year career as a freelance visual reporter covering stories in the States, 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, she reported and photographed from the region for leading American and European newspapers.