Artist Photographer Tariq Zaidi is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this documentary photography.  From the book/projectSin Salida’ published by GOST Books.  To see Tariq’s body of work, click on any image.


A member of MS-13, aged 27, at the Chalatenango Penal Center.


Inside the Chalatenango Penal Center


View of San Salvador from Mirador del Boquerón


A tactical patrol checks a passerby for weapons and identifying tattoos in Apopa municipality


Sin Salida (No Way Out) by photographer Tariq Zaidi documents the impacts of the notorious Mara Salvatrucha gang (MS – 13) and its rival Barrio 18 gang members on El Salvador. By depicting the gang members, police, prisons, murder sites, funerals, and the government’s war against the gangs, Zaidi illustrates the control the gangs have over the wider Salvadoran society, the violence through which they operate and the grief and loss resulting from the violence.


A bystander looks on while police cordon off the area around the body of a murder victim—who was shot eight times—on 38 South Avenue, Terminal de Oriente, Lourdes, San Salvador


Both MS – 13, and its rival gang, Barrio 18, have become in famous across Central and North America for developing extensive and sophisticated networks of extortion and domination across the region. Sin Salida is the result of over three – years researching, planning and photographing. Zaidi met and liaised with multiple agencies in an attempt to represent the full circle of the impact of the gang activity i n Salvadoran society. The first photographs in the book were taken in 2018 but these were preceded by many months of gaining the trust of local contacts and research before Zaidi even set foot in El Salvador. It took a further year to gain permission from governmental bodies to visit the prisons, shadow the Attorney General’s office and further time still to gain permission to work with the police and special operations units.


A policeman during a patrol in San Martín, San Salvador


When then – President trump was calling central American migrant caravans ‘criminals’ and the like, I wanted to explore what kind of life these people were leaving behind… I wanted to show the world just how dystopian El Salvador has become, and how the extent, scale and savagery of violence is unlike anything most of us have ever known. This breakdown of social norms exacerbate s  the situation: young people grow up in war – like conditions and are often socialised through and into the gang. The ubiquity of violence is devastating to regular psychological development. When you talk to families who have experienced this violence murders, disappearances, extortion, death threats — you understand that most people live out their days in fear. My hope with this work i s to amplify the voices of those Salvadorans who fight for basic human rights, security and a safer life for their children and families.


Inmates display their fashion creations as part of the Yo Cambio (‘I Change’) programme, which attempts to rehabilitate prisoners at the Penal Center of Quezaltepeque


Levels of violence in El Salvador have varied over the years, but the country’s murder rate has consistently been among the world’s highest. The government has achieved some success, bringing murder rates murder rates down from their high of 17 murders a day in 2015, to two murders a day by March 2020 — but an explosion of violence in early 2020 illustrated how volatile the country still is. The economic impact is that those who live in gang – controlled areas report less than half the income, and less educational and housing opportunities than those who live outside them. More generally, a culture of fear pervades gang neighbourhoods where anyone could be an informant, infiltrating every aspect of life.


A man prepares coffins at his workshop while his goat looks on in San Salvador


Miguel Ángel (left) and Cesar Barrio (centre), prepare the coffin for the wake of a 37-year-old man who was killed in a motorcycle drive-by shooting in Colonia Santa Cristina, Barrio Santa Anita, San Salvador


All images and text © Tariq Zaidi



Sin Salida

Book By Tariq Zaidi

Published by GOST Books



See also:

Brazil: Empty Promises – Priced out of Rio’s favelas

By  Tariq Zaidi



Tariq ’s Previous Contribution To Edge Of Humanity Magazine

Travel Photography From Around The World





Edge of Humanity Magazine is an independent nondiscriminatory platform that has no religious, political, financial, or social affiliations.

We are committed to publishing the human condition, the raw diverse global entanglement, with total impartiality.


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