POY RJI | Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute

Category: Portrait Series

First Place

Robin Hammond / Freelance
“Where Love Is Illegal”

Second Place

Josh Estey / Freelance
“Faces of Resilience”

Third Place

Javier Arcenillas / Freelance
“Assassins of the Maras 18 and Salvatrucha”

Award of Excellence

Shiva Khademi / Freelance

Award of Excellence

Turjoy Chowdhury / Freelance
“Rohingya Mothers and Newborns”

Third Place

“Assassins of the Maras 18 and Salvatrucha”

“You are not a gang member if you have not killed someone.” Portraits of young gang members from El Salvador. Assassins of the Maras 18 and Salvatrucha.

Director’s note: After Javier Arcenillas was awarded third place, several questions came up regarding the entry. It was questioned if the men pictured were murderers as the headline indicates, if information was intentionally omitted, if the men were current or former gang members and if the men were correctly identified.

In explaining his headline choice, Mr. Arcenillas cited that each man discussed killing rival gang members. All of the men were photographed while imprisoned for gang-related crimes and were taking part in a social and religious program called “You Cambio” (I change).

Mr. Arcenillas did not include information about the “Yo Cambio” program in his portrait series entry. Since the “Yo Cambio” program is seen as a way out of gangs and a path to a new, non-violent life, excluding that information brought into question Mr. Arcenillas’ intentions and reporting accuracy.

In reviewing his entry, we found that Mr. Arcenillas included information about the “Yo Cambio” program in his portfolio entry, but not his portrait entry. His portfolio entry included the same portraits along with documentary images of the men and their living conditions in prison. Both entries were submitted to POYi. In his summary, he stated that the program has achieved success in turning gang members into former gang members. He did not state that any of the men were former gang members. In a subsequent interview shared with us by another photographer, some of the men said they were former gang members.

In regards to the men’s identification, Mr. Arcenillas acknowledges he made mistakes. He got the names wrong. We have removed the names from the captions to avoid further confusion.

The portrait series was awarded third place for its compelling emotional quality. The POYi commented on the touching vulnerability and tenderness of the men portrayed in the series.

Mr. Arcenillas made mistakes in his entry, but we believe that he acted with honorable intent in his reporting and imagery.