Donna De Cesare is an author, documentary photographer and educator known for her groundbreaking coverage of the spread of US gangs in Central America. Her photographs and testimonies from children in Guatemala and Colombia who are former child soldiers, survivors of abuse or the stigma of HIV have assisted UNICEF in developing protocols for photographing children at risk. Donna De Cesare, is an Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, a  consultant to the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University and a Master Teacher with the Gabriel Garcia Marquez Foundation for Latin American Journalism.

Ms. De Cesare is a 2013 Recipient of the prestigious Maria Moors Cabot Award for outstanding reporting in Latin America and the Caribbean.  The oldest award given for foreign correspondence, it is, like the Pulitzer, a major career recognition bestowed by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Ms. De Cesare’s other honors include top awards from Pictures of the Year International, the National Press Photographers Association, the Dorothea Lange / Paul Taylor Prize from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, the Mother Jones Award for Social Documentary Photography, several Open Society Foundations grants and fellowships as well as a Fulbright Fellowship.

Her photography has been exhibited internationally in venues such as Visa pour l’Image in Perpignan, France; Centro de la Imagen in Mexico City; the Guangdong Museum of Art in Guangzhou, China; the Museo Tecleño in El Salvador; the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen in Mannheim, Germany;  the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC,  and the Brooklyn Museum in New York among others.

A selection of Ms. DeCesare’s work was included in the exhibition project Gangcity in Venice, Italy as a curated collateral event of 15th Venice Biennale in Architecture from May 26, 2016-November 27, 2016.   She is currently completing a project about environmental issues in Latin America.

Her book Unsettled / Desasosiego: Children in a World of Gangs is both a memoir and a visual history of her experiences in Central America and Los Angeles. It has been favorably reviewed in publications including: AfterImage, the New York TimesThe New YorkerMother JonesPRI’s The World, and numerous NPR programs, including Latino USA with Maria Hinojosa.

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Ethics Statement– I subscribe to the principles of the Writing with Light project. 

I’m a photojournalist and documentary photographer. I’m also an educator at a School of Journalism. While generative artificial intelligence is capable of positive impacts in a broad range of scientific and creative fields, synthetic visual images made without the physical presence of an eyewitness human reporter using a camera—in particular those made by image generators like DALL-E, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion—seriously undermine the evidentiary role that camera-led reporting by direct human witness- has played historically in the field of journalism and public interest documentary.

Camera-led reporting and witness are vital to human understanding because when practiced without misleading staging or alteration they are capable of showing us something that AI images (which may look like but are not “photographs,” or “moving-image actuality”) can never show: direct visual evidence made in the specific place and time of unfolding events that engage the credibility of oral testimonies of those living through those events by showing rather than telling.

Still and moving images purporting to be photographic or camera-led eyewitness proof of actual unfolding news events or of non-fiction documentary issues-—whether deployed in newspapers, on TV stations, or on social media—must remain contextualized and easily distinguishable from images which are fabricated by AI. I wholeheartedly support the Statement of Principles by the photojournalism working group on AI, and will adhere to its tenets in my own human-centered non-fiction and journalistic reporting practice and in my teaching