Chasing violence in El Salvador

Shortlist 2018

Dan Giannopoulos

British documentary photographer based in Central America.

The Problem

Chasing violence in El Salvador

San Salvador is one of the most murderous cities in one of the most violent countries in the world. 2016 national crime statistics showed that, despite a 20% drop from the previous year, there were 82 intentional homicides per 100,000 citizens – a total of 6,657 murders in a population of nearly six and a half million. Many of these killings are committed in and around the capital, the frontline of a trifecta conflict between the warring MS-13 and 18th Street gangs and the police who have adopted an iron fist approach. Staggeringly, as of the moment of writing, January 12th, 2017 was the last day without a homicide in El Salvador (the previous murderless day was some two years before). 

The night brings a sense of palpable fear and paranoia to the streets. In the silence of the city at night, police and news crews chart courses through the metropolis chasing the aftermath of extreme violence. They are searching for clues as to how and why these brutal attacks occurred and who may be responsible, under the glare of an ever-present tabloid news media who both feed the public’s desire for gruesome headlines and prey on people’s constant fear of their lives’ being directly touched by this violence.