When I first walked in to the Fermanian Conference center, the room was packed to the brim to hear this well-established photojournalist. So much so that a had to stand for the entirety of Eros Hoagland’s presentation/Q&A. And what a presentation it was. Hoagland captivated the room, all students, teachers, and faculty members held on to his every word as if it was liquid gold. With a confidence and certain grittiness that can only come from real world experience, Eros discussed his life: exploits, trials and tribulations, and all the dirt that comes along with a man in his profession. It was truly eye opening.
As a result of the Spanish language department’s (which is a section of the Department of Literature, Journalism, and Modern Language) effort to help promote their branch, Eros was brought on campus to speak on his experiences in Mexican culture as well as his many other adventures. Specifically, due to his unique perspective on the borderlands and thought-provoking photographs which help demystify such topics as violence and drug trafficking. His knowledge and personal experience as a journalist gives PLNU students a chance to learn about the deeper workings of a reality that is very close to us, but few truly understand. Through this the hope was that Hoagland would demonstrate the fact that Spanish can be an asset to various professions. Case in point Eros, who uses Spanish to connect with and gain access to the people he photographs. And what truly amazing photos they are.
“My pictures don’t scream, they whisper,” a quote from the final episode of the six-part documentary on Hoagland, Conflict. Those words aptly sum up Hoagland’s photojournalistic style. He isn’t a loud person, either within his work or physically in life. Calmly but confidently, when asked about his time in Afghanistan, he described walking through minefields unknowing if his next step would be his last and, graphically, a time when tracer rounds from a far-off sniper missed his head by a few feet. Even when discussing an ever-growing paranoia of stopped traffic due to the threat of kidnapping in Afghan, his demeanor did not change a bit. Cool and collected label Eros in full. He is obviously a man who has seen much and subsequently knows much.
On the front of war Hoagland is an expert, but his true passion is boarder disputes and life in Tijuana. Currently abiding in Mexico near Tijuana with his 6-year-old daughter, Hoagland talked about his journalistic passion for boarder cities, calling them “fascinating” in tones that define the word. “Tijuana, to me, was always an area where I was never really quite satisfied with any of the photography I had seen done there.” Mexico may seem to many a step down from the turmoil that is Afghanistan, but after hearing Hoagland all assumptions are broken. “Statistically, there’s still a lot of murders in Tijuana, but they’re tending to happen on the outskirts of the city in the poorer areas.” Diving in further he explained the drug market circulation and its effect on crime in the area. Not a place that actively invokes the word safe.
Hoagland covered such a broad range of topics it is impossible to hone in on a select few, but there was one concept that stood out from the rest. That was his passion for the lives of deportees. After the event came to an end and everyone filed out, I had the opportunity to introduce myself to Eros. Specifically, I asked him the main reason these deportees he had come to know and love were deported in the first place. “Crime.” That was his first answer, but then he expanded on the point. “Trump will have you believe that they’re all dangerous criminals, but this just isn’t the case. Most of them are deported for bullsh*t.” Obviously, this isn’t acceptable, and absolutely not what our government propagandizes. But it is the reality.
Eros Hoagland is a modern-day Indiana Jones. He certainly wouldn’t describe himself this way, but with his rugged demeanor and salt of the earth attitude he chases treasure in the form of life changing photographs all around the world barely dodging death every step of the way. Just talking with him is an adventure.