Eros Hoagland

Interview by Svetlana Bachevanova

Members of a civilian militia patrol the high desert in Arizona on the US Mexico border. The men involved in this militia see it as their patriotic duty to keep drug smugglers, Mexican military, common bandits and illegal immigrants out of US territory. Most militiamen have military experience and are prepared to use deadly force to meet their ends. These are not the minutemen. Border militia (not their official name) are a heavily armed, proactive group of man-hunters working covertly without connections to federal or local law enforcement.


SB. Who was your mentor?

EH. I cant say I had any consistent mentors throughout my career, but I certainly learned a lot from many photographers along the way. I suppose my father served as my greatest mentor, but not in a traditional sense as, of course, he was not physically present during my formative years as a photographer.


SB. Your work is focused primarily on social issues. Do you believe that your photographs can impact social injustice?

EH. I am very conflicted about the idea that pictures can impact social justice. If I had to give a definitive answer, I’d say no, pictures change very little. What photojournalism can do, however, is give people an emotional connection with issues and themes that are otherwise foreign to them. I firmly believe that if one wants to change the world, they must first change themselves.
 

 

Crosses mark a field where many murdered women were dumped in Ciudad Juarez during the 1990's. The murder rate among women is still very high in Juarez. Juarez has become one of the deadliest cities in Mexico as violence between competing drug mafias, street gangs, police and the Mexican army have turned the city into a virtual free-fire zone. Mexico has suffered over 10,000 drug mafia related murders since 2007.



 SB. What kind of decision photojournalists have to make before turning their camera in a specific direction?

EH. These days I think a lot about the problem of exposing subjects to retribution by criminal groups and governments. The power of the internet is far reaching – pictures will be seen by everybody now, and this can lead to the murder of the people we photograph in certain situations.

SB. What do you think limits the influence that photojournalism can have?

EH. Human apathy and selfishness present the biggest barriers to the power of photojournalism as an agent for positive change. And also the fact that our work is greatly undervalued by news outlets.

SB. You worked in many conflict zones. Did you ever have an issue with post-traumatic stress syndrome and if yes, how did you deal with?

EH. Yes indeed. I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for sure and Ive been trying to deal with it for years. Talk therapy is great if you have an outstanding therapist, which I do. And time off of the war trail is super important to me, as is enjoying outdoor physical activities like surfing, diving and archery. I still get quite anxious while driving in bad traffic, or being lost while driving in an area I don’t know well. I think this stems from the very real threat I have faced over and over again in places like Iraq, Mexico or Colombia where one becomes a sitting target for kidnappers when stuck in traffic, not to mention the threat of radio controlled IED’s . So I get very agitated when I am pinned into a bad traffic situation, even in the United States where there are no kidnappings or IED’s.

 

 

A man lies dying after being shot in the torso and then crashing his car in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The man later died from his injuries.

 
SB. What will be your advice to young photographers that want to follow your path?

EH. Young photographers need to think long and hard about their motivations to cover war, and continue to re-examine those motivations throughout their career. People need to honest with themselves about the why question. Also, don’t let ambition and selfishness get someone else killed. There are only fleeting moments of gratitude within this industry that consistently celebrates itself, but we are rarely appreciated by anyone else. Beyond that, I would recommend young photographers to commit to living in a place where they are inspired to photograph, and from that base location they should slowly build up their contacts and knowledge of the area – the work will benefit greatly from staying and getting to know an area very well. Also it helps if there is some interest by international news outlets in the area, but I wouldn’t rush off to a city already crawling with other photographers either. Know your subject matter, know the lay of the land.
 

 

Mexican Children attend a workshop at" Casa Amiga" a women shelter in Juarez Mexico. The painting behind the children represents the long history of femicide in Juarez.