One of the main objectives in photographer Bronia Stewart’s work is seeking out hard to infiltrate communities where gaining trust is imperative. It was with this goal in mind, she visited the dangerous neighborhood of Chalco, located in the outskirts of Mexico City, a place known for violence, robbery and an increasing presence of drug cartels. It was here she met convenience store owner and gang member, Pepe Torreblanco. Pepe agreed to have Bronia document his life for six weeks. The resulting series, Pepe, chronicles the daily life of gang members and their families.
In the weeks that followed Bronia immersed herself in Pepe’s life, and through this time spent together she was able to gain his trust. When tensions were high among rival gangs, she was told not to photograph. At times she felt unsafe, but tried to be smart and as careful a possible. As Bronia discovered, the life of a Mexican gang member is not all crime. She was warmly welcomed into the family with kindness and generosity. Despite the violent nature and social disenchantment of these gangs, they still hold strong family values while maintaining strong relationships and traditions. Bronia is still in touch with Pepe to this day.
All Images © Bronia Stewart