Halloween on the West Side

35 mm Tri-X black & white film

In the mid-1980s, I was doing a lot of photography for the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, documenting many of the organization’s events. That really opened my eyes to all the art that was happening on the West side — the music, the painting, theater — I was seeing so much of it.


Kathy Vargas was the visual arts director for the Center, and in 1986, she invited me to contribute photos to a Virgen de Guadalupe exhibit she was putting together. With Kathy’s encouragement, that started me in a new direction photographically. For the first time in my career as a photographer, I consciously approached shots with a purely artistic intent.


I did several photos for the exhibit, including photos of the Virgen de Guadalupe represented in a bedspread, a tattoo, even on a food truck. And then there’s this one from a public housing development.


Not too far from the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, at South Hamilton Avenue and Saltillo Street, there was a mural of the Virgen on the end of one of the buildings in the Cassiano Homes Apartments. Cassiano homes is a big development with lots of buildings, and both ends of each building is covered with a big, colorful mural. This mural of the Virgen is on one of them. It’s still there.


It was Halloween, so I thought I’d get a shot of some kids in costume in front of the mural. I parked my car across the street at a Pik-Nik and waited. I was there a long time without seeing anything that grabbed my interest.


Finally, a group of kids walked by and noticed me with my camera. One of them stopped and struck this pose.


I liked it, and I used it in the exhibit at the Guadalupe, and, later, it traveled with that exhibition over to the San Antonio Museum of Art.

See more of Al's work on his website.