I was born in the United Kingdom in 1980. I have a masters degree in Documentary Photography and Photojournalism from the London College of Communication. I tend to focus on long-term documentary photography projects and I love the way photography allows me to comment on relevant social and political issues. Some of the topics I've worked on include people with refugee status in the UK, marginal communities and inequality in Mexico, and borders and nation. My work's been published by organisations like CNN, Cuartoscuro, VICE and L'Espresso.
What’s it like to be a young man? That crazy time in our lives when we’re finding our place in the world, and many of us seem to run a little wild. Most come out the other side. We settle down, find jobs, and start families. There are always a few who struggle to end the party, and then we sometimes have friends who don’t make it through. This work touches on that journey. It’s about young men known collectively as Los Chavos Banda. People coming of age in the low-income neighbourhoods of the city of Monterrey, Mexico, but doing so when the city was experiencing the worst levels of organised crime it had ever known. Two groups were fighting over the metropolis and the illicit trade that flows through it. This disorder moves around the country in waves, concentrating itself in certain places for certain periods of time. It’s a situation that disproportionately affects young males, and has its greatest impact on the less-privileged side of society.
I started taking these images in 2011, and over three years I kept returning. I encountered young men with all the energy and aspiration you’d expect for people of their age, but in a context of high inequality with few opportunities for quality education or well-paid stable work. There was laughing and partying, some boredom and frustration, bits of anger and fighting, alongside the predictable family difficulties and social problems. Then there was the grief and trauma as organised crime and violence punctuated people’s lives. Some people get caught up in the crime. In the social and economic context they’re susceptible, seeing it as a way to earn money and status. Others exist on its edges as consumers; vulnerable to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many want nothing to do with it. Nonetheless, everyone has to live with the fear and the long-term consequences of losing friends and family members.
Since I left, Monterrey has become much calmer and many of the young men are making it through. They’re settling down, accepting the available work, and trying to look after their families.
However, friends have continued to lose their lives. I now want to go back. I want to reflect on those stories.
- TOM KING -