Getting access to people, places, and information forms a keystone in sound investigative journalism. But finding your way down the road of developing strong, clear access to sources can be tremendously difficult.
Whenever I start to doubt myself when it comes to getting access, I often think of Stanislas Guigui, a French photojournalist who spent years gaining access to Bogotá’s underworld of “urban pirates,” and then years more documenting it from the inside. Stanislas is the perfect example of a storyteller who is patient, committed, determined, and most importantly bold.
Thieves, gangsters, murderers, drug addicts… I saw characters with sparks of madness and paranoid eyes. They were so close to bestiality that they looked like wolves. But I also found a great deal of nobility in those faces zonked out by life and most people I had in front of me were still proud and strong enough to survive this doomed existence.
Credit: Stanislas Guigui
I went right into the heart of havoc to show what life is like on the other side of these walls. To show what one looks like when everything has been lost and that underneath the grime and the misery, there are simply people whose lives toppled one day. People like you, like me, who are simply out of luck or who had less strength to face life’s pitfalls.
Stanislas documented a place called the ‘Cartucho’, a neighborhood just a stone’s throw from Bogotá’s Presidential office, an enclave of ministry buildings and Plaza Simon Bolívar, where an extraordinarily dangerous urban underworld thrived. The ‘Cartucho’ used to be a 20-hectare area hell situated smack in the middle of the city. In the early 2000s it was demolished and replaced with a park.
View Stanislas Guigui’s Kingdom of Thieves documentary project on Bogotá’s underworld at this LINK