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Marco A. Cruz of Mexico City has won the $50,000 Grange Prize. ((Marco A. Cruz))

A Mexican photographer famous for his images of blind people has won the $50,000 Grange Prize.

Marco Antonio Cruz was awarded the prize for excellence in contemporary photography Tuesday at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Two Canadian and two Mexican photographers were in contention for the prize, which was decided by online voting and by visitors to galleries in Toronto and Mexico City.

Cruz, 52, has worked on a series of photo essays about blind people and the disadvantaged in his country.

A photojournalist for daily newspapers and for magazines as well as an art photographer, he came to international attention with his images of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake.

In 1984, Cruz and a group of colleagues created the photographic agency Imagenlatina.

He has published two books: Cafetaleros (Coffee Workers), about the exploitation of coffee workers in Guatemala, and Contra la Pared (Against the Wall).

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Blind Musician outside the clothing store High Life in Mexico City, 1987. ((Marco A. Cruz) )

The Grange Prize jury who selected him as one of the four competitors hailed his work to combat social injustice.

"Cruz understands documentary photography as the exercise of a point of view that is ethically and politically engaged, yet aspires to an aesthetic clarity," the jury said in its online statement.

"Witness to routines, events and neglects in a country marked by social injustice, Cruz has shaped a visual memory that reveals the complexities of the time in Mexico, while expanding the boundaries of our understanding of human dignity."

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Protest by organizations of blind merchants in Plaza de la Constitucion, Mexico City, 1993. ((Marco A. Cruz) )

Cruz is currently working on a website to document the former city of Tenochtitlan, which eventually became Mexico City.

As part of the Grange Prize competition, he asked to visit First Nations community groups in Ontario, including the Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre and  Woodland Cultural Centre.

The other finalists in the Grange competition were:

  • Lynne Cohen from Montreal.
  • Federico Gama from Mexico City.
  • Jin-me Yoon from Vancouver.

Launched in 2007, The Grange Prize, named in honour of the AGO's historic home, recognizes the best in Canadian and international contemporary photography.  Every year, a joint curatorial panel of experts selects candidates from Canada and one other country.

Next year, the partner country will be France.