Yael Martinez is a 2020 Magnum Photos nominee whose work confronts the trauma inflicted on his home country of Mexico by organzied crime.

Martinez took his first photograph aged 17, with a plastic camera belonging to his sister. Rejected from a Visual Arts university course because of his lack of experience, he enrolled in a commercial photography class at a technical college and started assisting an architecture photographer, before taking part in several photography programs in Mexico City and Oaxaca.

After six years spent meeting and photographing the families of people lost to Mexico’s drug wars, Martinez started work on a new project, Firefly. In 2019, the photographer was invited to take part in an exhibition about the concept of night in Latin America, and suggested an idea around humanity’s ability to “transform black energy into a positive energy”. To illustrate this concept, Martinez altered his photographs with pin pricks, allowing strands of light to bleed through the darkness.

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