The John Faber Award 2009

Sarah L. Voisin

Sarah L. Voisin


AWARD NAME: The John Faber Award 2009



AWARD HONORED WORK: In Mexico’s War on Drugs, Battle Lines are Drawn in Chalk

Voisin’s raw and direct visual investigation of the violent and complex drug war in Mexico offers us important insights into the horrifying violence there. Her images leave very little to the imagination; her use of color is extremely effective, and her navigation of the crime scenes and daily lives of Mexican communities ravaged by drugs and gangs are a tribute to her tenacity and courage.

Nearly 10,000 people - criminals, police, children and innocent bystanders, have died since the start of 2007, when Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared a war on drugs. That is more than twice the number of American fatalities in the Iraq war. Thousands of Mexican Army troops and Federal and local police are engaged in a multi-front war with the private armies of rival drug lords. Targeted assassinations, mutilations and other terror tactics are a daily occurrence. The conflict rages most fiercely along the 2000 mile long border with the United States, where drug cartels battle each other, and the authorities, for control of smuggling routes directly into the U.S. where the appetite for drugs has continued to rise especially during the economic downturn. In this photo, Police stand outside a bar minutes after an execution occurred inside. Photo: Sarah L. Voisin

A Mexican police officer comforts a woman just informed that her husband has been murdered. Photo: Sarah L. Voisin

In 2009, Mexico decriminalized possession of small amounts of pot and other drugs. In the neighborhood of Tepito, a notoriously rough neighborhood known for drug related crimes, a group of young Mexicans smoke marijuana and sniff drugs on a playground.  Angel Rosas Benitez, 30, who is known as "Abuelo" which means grandfather smokes pot. On the right, Laura, 20, inhales a solvent to get her high. Photo: Sarah L. Voisin

Rosa Palma kisses the coffin of a friend murdered by men wearing army uniforms. Photo: Sarah L. Voisin

Many Tijuana residents have no faith in the corrupt police department, instead they turn to vigilantism. Gregorio Toyar Lopez, 52, was stealing items from a car and was spotted by its owner. Rather than calling the police, the owner smashed Lopez's face into the sidewalk and left the scene. Photo: Sarah L. Voisin

In an effort to control drug related violence, the Mexican military has taken over the city of Juarez resulting in a major decrease in the murders. PICTURED: In downtown Ciudad Juarez, men dance with women for money at a bar named Vaquero, or Cowboy. Most of the women are prostitutes. A dance costs 10 pesos, less than a dollar. Photo: Sarah L. Voisin

Executions are common occurrence in every city in Mexico.  Police investigate the scene of a murder victim, identified as Sergio Porras, 32, who was gunned down only 2 doors from his house in Ciudad Juarez.  He was shot six times and is expected to be involved with the drug trade. Photo: Sarah L. Voisin

A Mexican marine storms through a marijuana field in the mountains of Sinaloa.  The Mexican government finds and destroys these remote crops.  More than 60 percent of the Mexican cartels’ profits in 2006 -- $8.6 billion out of $13.8 billion — came from U.S. marijuana sales, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Photo: Sarah L. Voisin

A beaten murdered man was found on a street corner in Mexico City.  Many of the unsolved crimes in mexico are easily attributed to the drug cartel. Photo: Sarah L. Voisin

Sarah L. Voisin took this photo for the Washington Post.

The Mexican military searches vehicles for guns and money coming in from the U.S. Photo: Sarah L. Voisin

Targeted assassinations, mutilations and other terror and intimidation tactics are a daily occurrence in Mexico.  In Tijuana this body was left naked with an intimidation letter attached and cut off fingers. Photo: Sarah L. Voisin