The stunning photos that inspired Sicario

Pictures from the photographer who has captured Mexico and its drugs cartels for years.

Alex Webb
"Surreal beauty" This image, captured by Webb in 1979 was taken at the Mexican border crossing. Image Photography by Alex Webb

When Sicario’s cinematographer Roger Deakins set about capturing the deadly, volatile and murky word of Mexican drug cartels, there was one photographer whose work he drew inspiration from.

Alex Webb has long been fascinated with the border between the United States and Mexico, stressing that it’s so much more more than a theoretical partition that divides the two countries.

“Instead, it’s more like a third country itself,” Webb says, “A ‘Borderland’ about 2000 miles long and 10 miles wide. It’s neither the US nor Mexico. It’s an entity with its own unique mixed customs, a blend of Mexican and American culture. These border towns are places of perpetual transience, of shifting worlds where the relationship between the two very different countries is continually blurred.”

Here, Webb takes us through some of his work that inspired the BAFTA and Oscar nominated film.


Webb says: “The following photographs are among my favorite images from my border work, representing the strange, often ambiguous, world of the border, a place that is neither the US nor Mexico, but some kind of troubled yet vibrant land between, a place that culturally seems at times to be almost a third country.”


Boquillas, Mexico, 1979


“Though none of these particular images speak directly to specific scenes from Sicario, both the film and these images suggest the sometimes edgy, sometimes surreally beautiful, often chaotic nature of this unsettled world in which transience reigns, as migrants and drugs travel north and guns and tourists travel south.”


MEXICO. Juarez, Chihuahua. 2003. The large colonia of Anapra on the outskirts of Juarez that is only recently beginning to be provided with some running water.


“Daily life goes on along the border, as families hang out and children play soccer in the shadow of the border fence. Life continues in the face of the pain and violence.”




“Migrants are waiting for nightfall to cross the fence in Tijuana to travel north into the US. There is that sense of the ever-present border fence, the unnatural barrier separating two countries, a barrier that is more than physical. It seems to be branded into the psyches of the inhabitants of the border.  As Alberto Alvaro Rios has said of the border, it is ‘where two countries meet…and the handshake is rough.’




“On the border, almost everyone always seems to be trying to go to the the other side, trying to gain some kind of advantage, sometimes legal, sometimes illegal. Taken in Nogales, this shows, behind the dog, a densely inhabited hillock, so typical of the western sector of the border.  It echoes the hillocks of Ciudad Juarez seen through the fence in Sicario.”

Sicario is out on DVD now.

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