Picturing Peace: A Documentary Youth Photography Project

Youth violence is a critical issue that has a debilitating impact on Minneapolis communities. Violence wreaks havoc by tearing at the social fabric and community cohesion of neighborhoods and, in particular, affects our youth. Youth engagement is an effective component of the solution. It is often said that “a picture is worth a thousand words” and community-based arts strategies, such as the photo-documentary, can help to educate, engage and empower people of all ages in positive activities that in turn can create more peaceful, safer and healthier communities.

With the goal of sparking dialogue about community solutions to youth violence, The Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District and City of Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support partnered to develop Picturing Peace, a collaborative community engagement and photography project that explores youth violence, peace and safety, and community support for young people. This spring, empowered with cameras and a critical eye, over a dozen Minneapolis teens documented their reflections and hopes for peace and safety in their communities. Teens participated in intensive workshops in which they discussed their perspectives of how violence impacts their community, learned the fundamentals of photography and curated their own work to create this collection.

This collection of photos represents their perceptions of the strengths and assets that support community peace where young people can thrive. The exhibit provides an opportunity to not only raise awareness about youth violence but also generate conversation among residents about how to make their communities safer for young people.


Youth Violence: A Public Health Issue that Affects Us All

Youth violence is a public health issue that affects all of us.   Our young people are assets to the community and are the leaders of tomorrow.  Minneapolis communities cannot thrive and grow while a culture of violence persists.   According to the Centers for Disease Control, youth violence is the second leading cause of death between the ages of 10 to 24.  In 2007 nationwide 5,764 youth age 10 to 24 were murdered – an average of 16 each day.  From 2003-2007 in Minneapolis, 97 residents between the ages of 15 to 24 died as a result of homicide.  Homicide was the leading cause of death for Minneapolis residents in this age group, accounting for almost half of all deaths.

No single factor explains why one person experiences violence while another does not. Multiple factors contribute to the development of violent attitudes and behaviors. Violence is the result of the complex interaction between an individual, their relationships, their community, and within society. Although there is no one single strategy or one group alone that can effectively prevent violence, together with a holistic and multi-faceted approach Minneapolis can prevent youth violence from ever occurring.

Through the implementation of a multi-faceted, multi-sector, multi-year master plan the City of Minneapolis Blueprint for Action to Prevent Youth Violence is helping to reduce and prevent youth violence in Minneapolis by taking a public health approach.  The public health approach is population-based, targets all city residents and treats violence as a disease or an epidemic, such as tuberculosis, polio or smoking. The public health approach uses strategies that reduce the factors that put people at risk for experiencing violence and increase the factors that protect people or buffer them from risk.

From a public health perspective, youth violence is not inevitable. It is a problem that can be prevented using a scientific approach similar to what is used to address other public health problems such as automobile injuries or lead poisoning.