Roberto Rosales knew what he was meant to do when his high school teacher handed him a 35 mm, film camera. Now a photojournalist for the Albuquerque Journal, Rosales said he attributes his accomplishments to his past.
At 11 years old, Rosales came to the United States to avoid the civil war in El Salvador. Staying with his mother in Maryland, Rosales got his first taste of photography at John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring, Md.
"Shooting photos back in high school sort of gave me this energy to go out and persue it, and I fell in love with it," he said.
One of Rosales' first photographs was a picture of a resting track runner in his school's locker room. He took this photograph at 17 but said he remembers it clearly.
"I look back on it now and it was a blessing in disguise. It helped me to get where I am today," he said.
After graduating from high school, he continued his studies at Montgomery County Community College, where Amy Heller, one of his professors, encouraged him to transfer to the University of New Mexico.
Although Rosales had never traveled west of the Mississippi, he graduated from UNM with a degree in fine arts.
"I wanted to tell stories; I wanted to document social issues. Even though my degree is in fine arts, I really didn't persue that," he said. Fine arts helped Rosales understand the more technical aspects to photography, but he said more journalism and writing classes would have been helpful.
After covering a vast selection of photography from the local level such as festivals in the Native American communities to national disasters like Hurricane Katrina, Rosales said the things that are easily overlooked often are what make a great photograph.
"It's one thing to be photographing what's in front of you, and go ahead and do take that photo, but at the same time turn around and see what's happening behind you."
One of the struggles of being a photojournalist is getting consent from the people he photographs, since he has to identify each person within a published photograph, he said.
Rosales said it is harder for aspiring photojournalists to enter the field compared to when he entered, because a lot of the manual settings he was taught inside of a classroom are now on a digital camera.
Despite the technological advancements, Rosales said it is still useful to know the technical aspects to film.
"There are events that separate those with talent from the lucky ones."
Rosales continues to work for the Albuquerque Journal while he and a friend create a new photo training program to teach photography on the field.
To see some of Rosales' photographs see his website.