February 2, 2012 - February 26, 2012
Heavy Hand, Sunken Spirit
“Heavy Hand, Sunken Spirit” is photographer David Rochkind’s project about the social costs and consequences of Mexico’s violent drug war. It frames such violence as a symptom–as opposed to the problem–and one of a variety of symptoms that will haunt the country for generations.
After narrowly winning Mexico’s presidential election at the end of 2006, Felipe Calderón quickly moved to escalate the battle against the country’s drug cartels. “This is a permanent fight, in which, unfortunately, many have lost their lives,” Calderón said at the time, “We are fighting without rest so that these sacrifices will not be in vain.” Nearly 35,000 more people have been killed since and kidnappings have skyrocketed. The government has deployed some 45,000 soldiers and police officers across the country specifically to stop such madness, but they have been largely ineffective. With more than 15,000 deaths in 2010 alone, more than half of the country believes that the government is losing this war.
“Mexico is a country in crisis,” Rochkind writes. “The government is battling the drug cartels, the drug cartels are battling each other, and there is a palpable fear across the nation. Corruption exists throughout the state and complaints of human rights abuses by the army are widespread. The line between criminals and the authorities is so blurred that the average citizen fears everyone. These photographs attempt to move beyond simple depictions of carnage to explore the stress and tension that is left in the wake of such violence and illustrate how this conflict will impact and handicap Mexico’s future.”
David Rochkind (b.1980) is a photographer who pursues projects about how social conflict and health issues affect and change the communities where they exist, such as the Mexican drug war and the global tuberculosis epidemic. His pictures have appeared in a variety of publications including The New York Times, Stern, Le Monde Magazine, and Glamour. Rochkind graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in Sociology. His work has been honored by numerous organizations, including Photo District News’ “30 New and Emerging Photographers to Watch,” Images to Stop TB Award 2009, Magenta Foundation, NPPA Best of Photography, and the Anthropographia Award for Human Rights and Photography, and has been exhibited at such venues as the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Rochkind currently lives and works in Washington, D.C.