Picturing the Surreality of Grief for Mexico’s Disappeared

The photographer Yael Martínez conjures a world of despair not through what he depicts but through what the viewer senses to be looming right outside the frame.

In September of 2013, the photographer Yael Martínez received a distressing phone call from his wife, Luz. “They killed Beto—they hanged him,” Luz cried. Beto was one of Luz’s nine younger siblings. He had been imprisoned for more than a year on drug charges in the Mexican state of Guerrero, an area plagued by cartel violence. Beto’s death was one of several losses for her family that year. David and Nacho, two other siblings, had vanished three months earlier; they were among the thousands of missing persons in Mexico. On the night that he learned of his brother-in-law’s death, Martínez saw his own lifeless body in a dream, abandoned in the middle of a desolate landscape.

Magnum Photos Nominates Five Photographers to Join Its Organization

Magnum, which is entirely owned by photographers, started its historic membership program back in 1955.

This year, Magnum presents five new prospects, who will first join the organization as nominees before potentially gaining admission to the Magnum collective as lifelong members. The international cohort includes Khalik Allah (USA), Sabiha Çimen (Turkey), Colby Deal (USA), Yael Martínez (Mexico), and Hannah Price (USA), and demonstrates an abiding interest in amplifying a diverse perspective, both in terms of photographer and subject.

Yael Martinez – La casa que sangra

Yael Martinez La casa que sangra (The house that bleeds) It was getting dark when I got the call. Luz, my wife, was telling me that they had killed her brother Beto. She was uncontrollable — I had …

It was getting dark when I got the call. Luz, my wife, was telling me that they had killed her brother Beto. She was uncontrollable — I had never heard her speak like that. Her voice was shaking, breaking. I could not sleep all night. “Beto was killed, hanged,” resonated in my head, “he was beaten, burned, but they told us that he committed suicide.” Her other brothers, David and Nacho, had been missing for over 3 months.

W. Eugene Smith Fund for Humanitarian Photography : Yael Martínez

It was getting dark when I got the call, my feet froze, Luz my wife was telling me that they had killed my brother-in-law- Beto, she was uncontrollable, I had never heard her speak like that, her voice was shaking, it was breaking… That day totally changed our life… I could not sleep all night, images shot up in my head and my mouth was dry; I fell asleep and an image came to my mind. It was me in a desolate, mutilated place … I woke up with tears in my eyes, “Beto was killed, hanged” was what resonated in my head, “he was beaten, burned, but they told us that he committed suicide.” David and Nacho had been missing for more than 3 months and Beto was killed in jail.