Jose Luis Gonzalez

Jose Luis Gonzalez

Based
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
Born
Ciudad Delicias, Mexico
Status
Photographer
Camera
Canon 1D Mark III
“I’ve been working as a photographer for ten years now, and you never know what you are going to get. You never stop learning.”

Beat

I cover the conflict between drug cartels and the authorities. I also love urban photography – playing with light or the lack of it.

One Shot

. CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Police stand around a trash can holding the body of a dead woman in the historic centre of Ciudad Juarez.
“One of my best images is a picture of a dead woman who was murdered, then dumped head-down into a garbage bin. A lot of women have been and still are being killed in Ciudad Juarez. This picture specifically says everything about the sick society of this city, where women simply mean nothing.”

Profile

My earliest memory of photography? I remember a photograph of a starving child with a vulture sitting in the background by Kevin Carter. I saw it as a poster, attached to the side of a food delivery truck for the poor.

I was 18 years old and my sister, who is a journalist, asked me one day if I wanted to go along with her on an assignment. I went with the photographer and that very day, when we finished, I quit my job as a part-time waiter in an Italian restaurant. Then I bought myself a Nikon S1 and, after I graduated from senior high school, I started working at the same newspaper where my sister was employed.

My first assignment was covering a protest by unofficial vendors who were being evicted from the town centre by the police. The police went into the protest with full force and the protesters all ended up getting arrested. I had one roll of film and I used it all. I was happy but I was a rookie and when I went back to the paper I told everyone about the great pictures I had taken – without having developed the film yet. When I saw the photos, they didn’t look at all like I expected them to look. My boss told me then: “Never say anything until you've got the pictures in front of you.”

Covering drug violence has definitely made the biggest impact on me. At one point, up to 25 people a day were dying in different locations around the city and I went to cover almost all of them, every day. Now, when I drive my car through the city, with my family, with my friends or on my own, I remember the dead wherever I drive because every corner was once a crime scene. I still see them; I can’t forget them.

One day, several police units on patrol were attacked at the same time but in different locations around the city and I went to take pictures of the dead officers at different crime scenes. When I arrived at one spot and got out of my car, I suddenly felt red laser sights on my head. The surviving police officers were aiming their guns at me. They yelled at me that I should get down on the ground and I thought that was it – any one of those guys could just pull the trigger. Several minutes went by and they let me go. But since then, I’m never the first one to a crime scene, I keep my head cool and my feet on the ground and I only go when I know the area is secure.

I like to follow up the stories of people who were killed, the wakes and the funerals, the human drama.

I respect my father, because he has always been an example to my siblings and myself. He works hard and respects everyone. He has taught me to treat everybody equally, with respect and love, and to make a living by my own means.

I’ve been working as a photographer for ten years now, and you never know what you are going to get. You never stop learning.

Behind the Scenes

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
Jose Luis Gonzalez photographs crosses that represent women who have died in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.