Monthly Archive for June, 2011

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dominic bracco II – life and death in the northern pass

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EPF 2011 Finalist

Dominic Bracco II

Life and Death in the Northern Pass

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“There are two ways of thinking about living here; either you go on every day and when it’s your turn to die you die, or you live every day in fear.”
– Daniel Gonzalez, 26, a resident of Ciudad Juarez who later moved to El Paso, Texas.

Sprawled across the tail end of the Rocky Mountains where the starved Rio Bravo pushes mud through a barren desert valley sits Ciudad Juarez, arguably the most violent city in the world — historically known as ‘El Paso del Norte’ or ‘The Northern Pass.’ The last three years the city of 1.5 million has seen over 8,000 murders.

As the drug war rages on violence has become more sporadic and faceless. Random crime has increased. Car jacking, robberies, and assaults are a daily occurrence.In the past five years, over 10,000 businesses have closed in Ciudad Juarez and up to 230,000 people have fled their homes. The economic downturn has exacerbated destabilization.

Drug bosses often offer the equivalent of a factory worker’s weekly wages to perform an execution. The most vulnerable social group is ‘Los Ninis’, young men and women who earned their name from the phrase ‘ni estudian, ni trabajan’ (those who neither work nor study).

According to a recent study by the Colegio de La Frontera Norte, up to 45 percent of all Juarez residents between 14 and 24 fall into this category and make up a quarter of the city’s total homicide victims. Massacres of Juarez’s youth are common – they have been gunned down at parties and targeted at rehab centers. They are killed indiscriminately.

The first mass killing of youths took place in January 2010 when 15 teenagers were gunned down at a party. Another massacre of 14 teenagers took place in October.

Without work or real incentive to work, young people are increasingly turning to the cartels. According to Miguel Parea, a local Juarez journalist, the mentality of many youth is fatalistic: “they say it’s better to die young as a rich man, than to die poor as an old one,” Parea said.

An earlier edit of the project was published on BURN Magazine, sections of the project have been published in The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.


Dominic Bracco II specializes in documenting the effects of Mexican and North American policies on the border region where he was raised. He has degrees in journalism and Spanish literature from The University of Texas at Arlington. Past clients include The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times Sunday Magazine. Dominic is also a founding member of the collective Prime. He is based in Mexico City. His project “Life and Death in The Northern Pass” was a 2011 Alexia Foundation Professional Grant Finalist, won 2nd place in spot news in the 2011 POYi competition, and was a finalist for the 2011 Michael P. Smith Fund For Documentary Photography.

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michael c. brown – the libyan republic

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EPF 2011 Finalist

Michael Christopher Brown

The Libyan Republic

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Since arriving in Libya, I have tried to understand the situation. People swap facts, predictions and rumors, but the complexity of the conflict makes it impossible to fully comprehend. Once a picture is taken or a word is written it is already old news. There seems to be no way to catch up, as the database of history is filed before it is processed. And as a result I have become more confused. But I can attest to one reality, shown in these photographs. They form a loose record of my experience during the war in Libya.

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi ruled Libya for 42 years. During his reign, supporters were given power while those opposed saw their lives crumble. Libya changed from an optimistic, patriotic society to a people living double lives, resigning basic human rights in the face of a brutal authoritarian regime. Trust was elusive and the people were cold.

Then everything began to change. After dictators in similar Mafia-like states of Tunisia and Egypt were forced to leave, thousands of Libyans planned their own Day of Rage. In Benghazi, a peaceful protest on February 15th became a massacre, as protestors were fired upon by police forces. As the uprising spread across eastern Libya, young men throwing stones stormed the Katiba in Benghazi only to be slaughtered by anti-aircraft guns. Though hundreds of them were killed, with help from General Younes special forces the protestors took Benghazi back from Gaddafi. So began the revolution in Libya.

Today, as the war rages on in eastern Libya and in Misrata, Libyans are treating each other as family while creating a new Libya for themselves, not Gaddafi. Though their cities are in shambles, freedom is in the air.

The more time I spend in Libya the more questions I have. Will NATO give up? Who are the rebels and the people creating the new Libyan Republic? Who were the children affected by the HIV trial? What happened to the missing soldiers in the war with Chad and where are their families?

This summer I will attempt to find some of these lost pieces of a past long covered up by the Gaddafi regime and continue documenting daily life, both of which have been shielded from foreign eyes for nearly half a century.

This story has been published before on BURN Magazine, in FOAM magazine (Spring 2011), National Geographic Magazine (July 2011), Das Magazin (April 2011), Photoworld (April 2011), and on (2011).


Michael Christopher Brown is a contributing photographer to National Geographic Magazine and works regularly for Fortune, GEO and Time magazines, among others. While earning a master of arts in documentary photography from the School of Visual Communication, Brown was named College Photographer of the Year. A former attendee of the World Press Joop Swart Masterclass, his work has won numerous awards from organizations such as BURN, CENTER, Magenta, PDN, The Art Directors Club, Canon and Anthropographia. American Photo magazine named him among a new generation of photo pioneers.

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irina werning – back to the future

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EPF 2011 Finalist

Irina Werning

Back to the Future

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I love old photos. I know I’m a nosy photographer. As soon as I step into someone else’s house, I start sniffing for those old photos. Most of us are fascinated by their retro look but to me it’s imagining how people would feel and look like if they were to reenact them today… A year ago, I decided to actually do this. So, with my camera, I started inviting people to go back to their future.

It starts when I get together with my subjects and we choose the old picture. I go through their boxes and albums looking for an image that speaks about them. Next comes a bit of a photographic investigation: studying the lighting, the angle, the type of camera and lens it was shot with, etc. Then, from there, the search begins: internet auction sites, second hand stores, borrowing from friends wardrobes, cutting, dying, sewing, attaching, adapting, assembling, gluing, coloring, painting, renting rare and hard to find objects. This project requires a lot of improvising on the run and it involves searching endlessly for stuff in the streets of Buenos Aires. I guess I really like finding things. If I cant find something, then I make it.

Once I have everything I need, we are ready to go back to the future. I dress them up and put them either in the set I built for them or, when possible, back in the real location. Once I get the light right, I ask them to do that thing they were doing in the original photo. I am always amazed that they do it.

Its funny how what you do can show you who you are. I always thought of myself to be the opposite of perfectionist as I live in complete chaos most of the time. However, when I now look at these pictures and see the attention to detail in them, I have to question my self image…

This story has been published in Sunday Times Magazine (Spectrum).


Born in Buenos Aires
BA Economics, Universidad de San Andres, Buenos Aires, 1997
MA History, Universidad Di Tella, Buenos Aires, 1999
MA Photographic Journalism, Westminster University, London, 2006
Winner Ian Parry Scholarship 2006
Gordon Foundation Grant 2006
Selected for Joop Swart Masterclass (World Press Photo Organization), 2007

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