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Gruesome photos are Mexican magazine's specialty

By Bernardo Loyola, VBS.TV
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Photos of the dead fuel Mexican tabloid
  • Alarma! magazine features graphic photos of murder, accident victims
  • VBS rides along with Alarma! photographer who spends nights looking for dead
  • Photographer, cohorts found to be nice, funny, generous and "not what you'd imagine"

Editor's Note: The staff at has recently been intrigued by the journalism of VICE, an independent media company and Web site based in Brooklyn, New York. VBS.TV is the broadband television network of VICE. The reports, which are produced solely by VICE, reflect a transparent approach to journalism, where viewers are taken along on every step of the reporting process. We believe this unique reporting approach is worthy of sharing with our readers. This video contains vivid images depicting extremely graphic violence. Viewer discretion advised.

Brooklyn, New York (VBS.TV) -- I've seen very few dead people in my life. I saw my grandparents and a few friends who passed away, but all of them looked peaceful resting in their coffins. But I had never seen murdered people until recently: lying on the sidewalk, face-down in puddles of their own blood.

In May, VBS producer Santiago Stelley and I spent a week with David Alvarado, the night photographer for Alarma!, the magazine profiled in this piece and in VICE magazine a few months before. David introduced us to his photographer buddies: Valente, who works for El Universal; Gustavo "LG" Hurtado, who shoots for La Prensa; and Juan Carlos "Amarillo" Alarcon, who reports all night for Radio Monitor.

We drove all over Mexico City in their old Beetles at full speed, running through every red light while chasing ambulances and looking for dead people from 10 at night till 5 in the morning. They were incredibly generous, open and funny. They were not the bloodsucking, soulless paparazzi types who you might imagine someone with this job to be. They are nice people with a strange and very exciting job that is perhaps morally questionable.

The first night, our first story was in the super-sketchy neighborhood of Iztapalapa. I've lived half of my life in Mexico City, and I rarely went there. Now we were driving like crazy at 4 a.m. to an Iztapalapa crime scene. It was an intensely surreal and cinematic feeling.

See the rest of Alarma! at VBS.TV

Later that night, we saw the aftermath of a narco execution. It was the sort of scene you read about every day in the Mexican newspapers, but is a lot more difficult to deal with when it's right before your eyes. The blood, as Valente had warned us, smelled strongly of rusted metal. It was dark and very scary.

As the days went by, though, Santiago and I gradually got used to seeing dead people. This was probably the most interesting and unsettling feeling over the trip, and the one that gave us the greatest insight into what it's like to report on this carnage night after night. I guess it must be akin to what people who make porn must feel ... or not feel.

I've always felt fascinated with La Nota Roja, Mexico's "Red Press," the subset of media dedicated to chronicling all the country's violence and mayhem in vivid, graphic color. A few years ago, I made a short film about a guy who obsessed over the photography in these papers, and Santiago has an enormous collection of Alarma! issues from years and years back, so for us, this is sort of a morbid dream come true.

We realize that to outsiders the footage we shot may make Mexico City seem like the kind of place you don't want to be anywhere near after dark, but we see it as a noir-tinted tribute to a city we both love. As Valente says toward the end: "Mexico City by night is just amazing."