Erika Piñeros lives for the sense of adventure, being in different places, and always feeling humbled by new experiences. We met in 2010, at a trendy bar in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I was struck by her zest for life. Always positive and resourceful, I knew she would make a great partner for the Adelante reporting trip to Guatemala.
Erika is drawn to stories about civil conflict and land rights disputes, which remind her of similar hostilities in her native Colombia. She began photographing forced evictions when she moved to Phnom Penh in 2008. She lived in a community on Boeung Kak Lake which was taken by the government to be handed over to a private housing developer. “I was drawn to these issues, and I started looking into how to bring some attention to it.” The evictions pushed 4,000 poor families out of their homes who lived on and off the lake. They relied on harvesting morning glory, a water vegetable, and fishing.
From her graphic design background, the transition into photography was natural. Today Erika weaves writing together with her photos or video to create powerful multimedia narratives. She strives to improve her journalism through learning new tools: “They are a medium to a greater goal of telling about a story I really care about.”
For Erika, journalism isn’t always about the story. It is also about the people she meets along the way. “I do what I do because I love spending time with people and learning from their stories,” she told me. “I may not change their lives, but when they feel heard, I think that brings us together and we become more human.”
She has since returned to Colombia to focus on unreported stories about the country’s on-going conflict and to bring fresh reporting perspectives about the peace process.
– Lianne Milton