Mi Papá

35 mm black and white film

This is a photo of my dad creating a wood-carving of the Virgen de Guadalupe. He was making it for me, and I wanted to capture him at work.


My father meant a lot to me.


He worked for thirty-three years at Kelly Air Force base, getting up every morning at 4:00 or 5:00 AM, putting in a full work day, and then coming home, having dinner, and spending the evening doing what he really loved: working in his wood shop.


He could make anything out of wood.


Much of his work was creating and repairing hand-carved furniture. Antique dealers would come to him with a table that was in great shape except for one missing, hand-carved leg, and he could duplicate the carvings of the other legs and make that table salable again.  He did a lot of work for the W.R. Dallas furniture company. They’re a hundred-year-old Texas company, born here in San Antonio, that makes handcrafted, western-style furniture. And he used to carve panels that were built into their furniture. I bet he carved hundreds of pieces for them.


He also carved frames for my artwork. It was a perfect marriage — his hand-carved wood surrounding my sepia-colored photographs of San Antonio’s Mexican culture.


My dad inspired me with his work ethic, his commitment to his art, and his creativity. He directly supported me, too. Everyone in my family wanted me to go to college, and he was the only one who backed me up when I decided to quit and seriously pursue photography.


He told me that I should do what I loved. 


“You do what you want to do,” he told me. He had given up so much of his own life to a job, pushing his real passion to the side, so he understood what I needed to do, and he encouraged me to do it.

See more of Al's work on his website.