Sandra Cisneros

35mm black and white film

This portrait of Sandra Cisneros is in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. It’s on view now in a special exhibition entitled ‘Her Story: A Century of Women Writers’. Here's Al's story about how this photo came to be.

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I got to know Sandra back in 1985, when she was director of the literary program at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. She organized book fairs, with major writers coming in and reading excerpts from their works, and I was there to take photos. 


Sandra was always great about supporting local artists, and we stayed in touch over the years.


This portrait came about because her publicist wanted updated photos to use in promoting some of her new work. So I met with her at her home on Guenther Street, in King William, to get some shots.


Sandra has always been a huge dog lover. I think she may have had five dogs at that time. We took quite a few photos behind her house, and then she walked me out to the front and I wanted to get one more. One of her rescue dogs, Beto, followed us out, and when Sandra sat on the steps, he stood next to her. His pose was perfect, mimicking the little statuette at his side, and I got that shot. That’s what makes this photo stand out. I can’t tell you how many times luck and Karma have intervened to help me get something special with my camera.


This photo wasn’t one of those used by her publicist, but in 2014, when the Smithsonian approached me — they already had my Selena image — to ask if I had any photos of Sandra, I immediately thought of this one.

See more of Al's work on his website.