I normally cover poverty and violence.
My first memory of photography is the time my step dad brought home a pocket camera with 12 frames. We all went to the park and he took a family picture of my mum, brother and me. I thought it was magical that you could freeze time and capture an instant forever; I fell in love with photography that very moment.
I must have been ten years old, when I saw a foreign photographer - obviously lost - wandering around downtown San Salvador. It was the 80s, in the middle of the civil war. I started talking to him and he told me he was a freelance photographer from the States. I asked what it took to become a photographer like him, and he told me to study journalism or photojournalism. Years afterwards, I found out that this man who had inspired my studies was John Hoagland, a war photographer who was killed by a Salvadoran soldier in 1984.
I followed John Hoagland’s advice when I got older, and enrolled in university to study journalism, but I had to drop out after the third year: my family had stopped paying for my tuition and I needed to get a job. Shortly afterwards I got a job as an intern, without pay, at a unionised newspaper, where the owners had gone bankrupt and the employees had taken over. It was a very poor newspaper but they gave me a camera, a 50mm lens, a flash and a roll of black and white Fomapan film with 12 shots.
For my first assignment, I went to cover a protest outside a bank, where the director had embezzled money. It was a story without pain or glory, but my editor was interested in it and sent me to take pictures. The only thing I came up with was a photograph of the logo of the bank on a glass door that also showed the reflections of the protesters. This photograph became my first cover. And I learned that light is everything.
The assignment that left the biggest mark on me was when I travelled with Central American migrants on their quest to reach the United States. I went with them from Tecun-Human, across the whole of Mexico, to el Rio Bravo. I saw the terrible treatment they receive from pretty much everyone and the horrible things they have to go through on this very long journey. I could not, and still cannot, understand why people leave everything behind.
I like stories that show the infinite capacity of human beings to exist in the most adverse environments – and which show their dignity despite everything.
The people I respect the most are the excluded and forgotten ones, the ones that have no voice.