Back in 2010, I did an exhibit at St. Philip’s College as part of FotoSeptiembre. The exhibit was a series of ‘retratos’, or portraits, that I’d been planning and working on for quite a while.
At the time, I wrote this description of the portraits that I had included:
“These are the people that make San Antonio unique, each person, each personality, and each expression taken in a flash of time. Some of them are very close, with years of conversations, experiences and emotions together. Others are known to me as leaders of my community, as profound influences. One of them was just a chance encounter on the street … these are portraits of my Latino community, Mi Retratos.”
This portrait was one of those people with whom I was close, someone I had known for years.
I first met Henry de Leon when he was working at Ford, Powell & Carson, the historic San Antonio architectural firm. I was working at a photo lab back then, and Henry used to bring us the firm’s B&W film to be processed, and we got to know each other.
Henry does interior designs, floral arrangements, store displays and styling. Back then, he was always an imposing figure. He dressed in a way that made him stand out as a Latino artist and look special. I can remember that when we were out having lunch, sometimes people would come over to meet him, not because they knew who he was, but because he just looked like he was somebody.
Over the years Henry has assisted me on many photo-shoots. He’s helped by styling my images, doing wardrobe, and arranging products for commercial shoots and some of the photos I did of Selena.
Of course, his home reflected his style. When I thought about including Henry as one of the ‘portraits of my Latino community’, I immediately thought about posing him in front of that wall of shingles arranged like a flower. The rest of the setting, of course, is Henry’s.
See more of Al's work on his website.