Best Work by an Emerging Photographer | Nominee

Axel Javier Sulzbacher

Hannover / DE

with tusks and claws


Since 2015,the murder rate of children and adolescents in Mexico has steadily increased. This is due to the systematic recruitment of minors in the foundations of criminal gangs.In September 2021, the Network for Children's Rights in Mexico, published a new study showing that 250,000 children and adolescents are at risk of being recruited by the cartels. In 2019, approximately 30,000 minors were already appointed to work for the cartels as scouts, street dealers or hitmen.In the capital of the Mexican state of Michoacan, a group of former soldiers and police officers have banded together to teach children strict military activities and procedures to be waned off the streets and better aligned with the law. They meet every Sunday to prepare the children for various tasks.

 "It's better that they learn with us and are prepared for the fight than to learn in the streets," says the commandant of the alliance, their war cry : Aztec warriors with tusks and claws always victorious.


Axel Javier Sulzbacher, born in 1992, born in Hanover raised in both Germany and mexico

After graduating from high school, studied photojournalism and documentary photography at the Hanover University of Applied Sciences and Arts.

Longer stays abroad and photographic work in Morocco,
Western Sahara, Iran and especially Pakistan and Mexico with a thematic focus on social and ecological fields of conflict.

The photographic works draw attention to people whose biographies and living conditions are shaped by a social environment in which poverty, violence and corruption prevail. At the same time, they want to show the individual and collective strategies with which these people assert themselves, master their everyday lives and fight back.

Since 2018, several photojournalistic projects and intensive research in the autonomous indigenous community of Cheran in the Mexican state of Michoacan. Here, small farmers, fishermen and artisans collectively defend their livelihoods against the often illegal and violent expansion of avocado cultivation for the world market.

Published in many different magazines, including Stern, Zenith and Geo.