Teun Voeten Bio

teun voeten photojournalist

About Teun Voeten

As a war photographer, anthropologist, researcher and writer, Voeten is passionate to explore la condition humaine, by all means necessary ...


Teun Voeten
was originally born in the Netherlands. After a year as an exchange student in New Jersey,he started to study biology but after a year switched to cultural anthropology and philosophy at Leiden University, Netherlands. While studying, he grew interested in photography and learned the profession by working as a photo-assistant, both in Holland and in New York, where he studied at the School of Visual Arts in 1989.

In New York, he also picked up his first assignments for magazines such as Details and High Times combining writing and photojournalism on subjects such as the Provo movement in the Netherlands, the elections in Nicaragua and the race riots in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

After carrying out extensive fieldwork in a gold digger community in the Ecuadorian Andes, Voeten received his Masters in cultural anthropology in 1991 and moved to Brussels, Belgium. Over the years to follow, Voeten covered the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, Haiti and Rwanda for Dutch, Belgian, German and American publications.

In 1994, he took a break from war reporting and picked up his anthropological roots by studying a homeless community that was living in an old rail road tunnel in Manhattan.

For five months, Voeten lived, worked and slept among the tunnel people. This resulted in his first book ‘Tunnelmensen’ (1996, Atlas Publishers, Amsterdam). It was broadly praised by the press, 'a supreme example of participant observation,' one Dutch monthly wrote. 'Tunnel People' appeared September 2010 in a translated and updated version at PM Press, Oakland.

Between 1996 and 1998, Voeten developed a taste for the so called “forgotten wars” and reported from Colombia, Afghanistan, Sudan and Sierra Leone. Work from these trips was published in his photo book 'A Ticket To’ (1999, Veenman Publishers).

In 1998, Voeten went to Sierra Leone to work on a project on child soldiers. His first trip ended nearly in disaster went he was hunted down by rebels intent on killing him, but eventually resulted in his book ‘How de Body? Hope and Horror in Sierra Leone’ (2000 Meulenhoff Publishers). The English translation appeared at St. Martins Press, New York, 2002.

In 2000 and the years to come, Voeten was working on the human rights violations in Colombia, the so called conflict diamonds in Angola, Congo and Sierra Leone, the ongoing war in Afghanistan and women trafficking and forced prostitution on the Balkan

In 2003, he went to Baghdad to follow up on the American led invasion/liberation, to return there 6 months later as an embed with the US army.

Over the last few years, Voeten also followed the Coalition forces in Afghanistan, the ongoing events in the Gaza strip, the DR Congo and North Korea as well as Chad (Darfur crisis), Iran (daily life), China (pollution) and more recently, in 2012, the Arab Spring in Egypt en Libya, the war in Syria (2013, 2015) and the front lines with ISIS in Iraq (2017).

Voeten has been published in Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, NY Times Magazine, National Geographic Magazine, Newsweek, Time, NRC,Frankfurter Allgemeine, between others. His photos are used worldwide by relief organizations such as the International Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, UNICEF, UNHCR, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Having won several awards for his photography and writing, Voeten is a regular guest on talk shows from all major networks and is a sought after lecturer at universities and cultural institutions worldwide.

teun voeten

In 2009, Voeten started to focus on the drug violence in Mexico and made numerous trips to the flash points of the drug war, Ciudad Juárez, Culiacán and Michoacán. In 2012, he published his ‘Narco Estado. Drug Violence in Mexico’, Lanoo Publishers.

He also turned into new roads, making a video documentary about growing up in the most dangerous city in the world (Ciudad Juárez), as well as curating a war photography exhibition, "10 years after 9/11" in the GEMAK Cultural center in The Hague, In 2016, he made with filmmaker and video artist Maaike Engels ’Calais: Welcome to the Jungle’, a multilayered documentary on the squalid migrant camp in Northern France.

Intrigued by the extreme violence in Mexico and trying to put 30 years of war experience into academic perspective, Voeten went back to his anthropological roots. September 2018, he received his PhD degree from his Alma Mater Leiden University with a thesis called 'The Mexican Drug Violence: Hybrid Warfare, Predatory Capitalism and the Logic of Cruelty’. An updated and totally revised version of his came out November 2020 at Small Wars Journal.

In 2019, Voeten researched the social and cultural context of drug related crime for the city of Antwerp. His study was published as a bestselling book called ‘Drugs: Antwerp in the grip of the Dutch Drugs Syndicates.’ Besides working on a long term project mapping global trends in drug-induced disintegration, Voeten is currently researching the world of crystal meth. In 2021 he became fellow of Small Wars Journal-El Centro.



Sais-Novartis Award

for “The Terror of Sierra Leone.” Laureate Natali Award for Journalism and Human Rights

1995, 1998, 1999

Zilveren Camera

Dutch Photo Journalistic Competition. Category Foreign News. (Sarajevo, Sudan, Sierra Leone)


Nomination Prof. Speckmann Prijs

best Cultural Anthropologic Fieldwork, Leiden University, Netherlands


PhD Degree on the Mexican Drug Violence, Leiden University.
Masters Cultural Anthropology, minor Philosophy, Leiden University.
History of Modern Art, School of Visual Arts, New York.

Professional Experience

Free-lance photographer and writer, covering the conflicts in Bosnia, Haiti, Chechnya, Colombia, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Angola. Working for publications such Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, NY Times Magazine, National Geographic Magazine, Granta, Details, Village Voice, Vrij Nederland, NRC, De Standaard, Frankfurter Allgemeine, etc and for organisations such as International Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNFPA, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Save the Children. Radio reports/dispatches for Belgian and Dutch Networks.
Initiator of campaign to raise funds for a high school in Sierra Leone.
1994 / 1995
Research/partipant observation in homeless community, living in the tunnels under Manhattan.
Coordinator in a Dutch/Belgian campaign to support the independent media in Sarajevo.

Headline Publications

How de Body. One Man's Terrifying Journey Through an African Civil War, St. Martins Press, New York.
Tunnelmensen (Tunnelpeople), Atlas Publishers, Amsterdam.
How de Body. Hoop en Horror in Sierra Leone, Meulenhoff Publishers, Amsterdam.
A Ticket To, Veenman Publishers/Center for Contemporary Arts, Ede/Leiden, Netherlands.

teun voeten

Selected Exhibitions

Museum Ethnoggraphy, Leiden, “Afghanistan 2001 and Sudan 1997”
Halfking Gallery New York, “Afghanistan 2001”
Firepatrol Nr. 5, Harlem, New York “Our Grief is Not a Cry for War,” Groupshow
Fort Mason Center, San Francisco. “Afghanistan: End or Renewal.”
Columbia University, School for International and Public Affairs, NY “Human Crises in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda.”
Soros Foundation/Open Society Institute, New York. “Sierra Leone. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”
Fnac Gallery, Brussels. “Afghanistan: End or renewal?” Center for Contemporary Art, Leiden. “A Ticket To.”
Dr. Guislain Museum for Psychiatry, Gent, Belgium. “Tunnel people. Homeless in New York.”
1996 / 1997
Emerging Collector Gallery, New York. “Tunnel people,” “The Forgotten Wars.”
Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, “Former Yugoslavia.” Faculty Social Sciences, Leiden University, Leiden. “Three times Latin America: Images from Ecuador, Haiti and Nicaragua.”
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