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Eduardo Rossal


"When I was a yay-high in Guatemala, young and all, I would be up early in the morning heading to work with my father. He was a man who grew up without owning a pair of shoes till he was in his teens, given to him by the rebels that he joined. There was no choice in the matter of his allegiance; people had to pick a side, or a side would be picked for them. He saw the massacre by the Guatemalan government toward the natives, and he wanted to do something to help them; for someone who could not afford to go to school at a young age, fighting was the form that made the most sense."

Eduardo Rossal

 

The state of disillusionment is an affair that grabs you, tosses you around, and beats you up. You heal, eventually, but this state lingers. The world seems colorless, and there’s no liveliness in one’s soul.

 

 

When I was a yay-high in Guatemala, young and all, I would be up early in the morning heading to work with my father. He was a man who grew up without owning a pair of shoes till he was in his teens, given to him by the rebels that he joined. There was no choice in the matter of his allegiance; people had to pick a side, or a side would be picked for them. He saw the massacre by the Guatemalan government toward the natives, and he wanted to do something to help them; for someone who could not afford to go to school at a young age, fighting was the form that made the most sense.

His friends fought in other forms — such as the law. However, due to my love for history, I fell for the admiration of his friends who fought with the written word, the journalists. I would hear of these men and women using, not bullets and guns, but paper and pen to fight for the betterment of all. It is why I chose the path I took as a photojournalist, even though my father hated this idea for me as those friends with ’em pens all met a deadly end; as a father, he wanted me to live till brittle old age.

The truth is a beautiful thing — and a scary thing. Telling someone the truth, even if you have known them for your whole life, terrorizes us in ways we wrestle with. “Seek the truth and report it” still echoes in my mind. However, the industry has become not one of idealism or a pursuit of the truth but how to profit off the misery that covers most of our everyday life. I don’t believe the old adage, “If it bleeds, it leads.” It doesn’t sit right to exploit the pain of others to make a career for myself.

In Las Vegas, as a member of the Forced Trajectory Project, which documented police violence against local citizens, I worked alongside some of the most passionate individuals for social justice I have ever met. It was day and night, working around the clock for justice for these families that suffered a loss due to police brutality. I made many friends. However, over time, the thoughts that flooded my mind were of those families struggling to comprehend that the ones they loved would never walk through the door ever again. The transfer of trauma is a real thing that I had to wrestle with. It hurt even more seeing how others used these families as political props to further their personal agendas — we worked with a few people who were more interested in what they could get out of this work than out of providing justice and solace to families. The audacity and nerve of some folks not even stretching out a hand to help people in an unimaginable state, yet using them and going through it angers me. It broke me.

 

 

We have three obligations and duties in our short and brief lives: To be honest, to be compassionate, and to be understanding. That is it. It is my mantra that I recite each day when I get ready for what comes ahead.

 
Journalism, to me, was and will always be a civic duty. As a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Hugo Black, once ruled, “The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.” Countless journalists have made sacrifices in the pursuit of truth. George Orwell in Spain fought for a world that he believed ought to be compassionate. Ida Wells searched for justice in the South when those in power were lynching Black men and women. Journalists work in countries that use tyranny to oppress their citizens, such as Jamal Khashoggi, who challenged the government of Saudi Arabia in his reporting and was murdered by that government; or Elisa Barahona, who went undercover for years to investigate the corruption in Guatemala’s government; or Anna Politkovskaya, who tried to bring democracy to Russia by exposing the oligarchs and Vladimir Putin’s corruption. These men and women saw that the truth could lead toward betterment for their people — while those in power thought they deserved all the riches that power affords them.
 

 

My thoughts are composed of all this; my photojournalism work is in the memory of these brave men and women who sought out the truth, as it is a power that can disrupt and break those who hide from its looming light. From cold days of winter, following thousands of protestors in search of a better country, a country that is safe for everyone, to being compassionate to the huddled masses, to the victims of police incompetence, and to children in Guatemala who pick the beans for far too privileged individuals. The work I am proud of is in their service. Nothing more and nothing less than duty and obligation. I have built my pillars upon the light that guides me.
 

For years, I was broken; I lost most of all my hope. During the occupation of the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle after the death of George Floyd, a sign read, “Hope is a discipline.”

 
I realized that hope is a resource. It is easy to lose hope and hard to regain. It does take discipline. You have to teach yourself why it is important to have it. Without it, there is very little light shining the way forward.
 

 

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