Throughout my career, my commercial work has given me ideas and has sort of channeled me into opportunities for my art. That goes back decades to commercial work I did covering events, like Conjunto music festivals and Charreadas. In both cases, I got introduced to a piece of the Mexican American culture that then became subjects for my art photography.
This photo also grew out of a commercial assignment, although it was more indirect than usual. I was waiting for people to gather for a shoot I was doing for WellMed, and I struck up a conversation with someone who was waiting along with me. We talked about a variety of things, but one thing she mentioned was a group she belonged to, The Zoot Suiters. Their charitable mission is to raise funds for kids’ school supplies — they give away backpacks full of supplies — but they also have fun.
Zoot suits, of course, are a part of our cultural history, and so is this group and what it’s doing, so I asked if we could get some of the members together for photos.
I thought that a great backdrop for the photos would be a mural that Jesse Trrevino had done at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. So we scheduled to meet there on a Sunday afternoon. A friend of mine brought an old car, one of the Zoot Suiters brought one, too, so we ended up with a great setting.
I took lots of shots, but this one stood out for me. This is José M. Mosqueda. He’s such a striking person, and it’s such a striking pose. And with the Virgen in the background, it’s just a great shot.
In fact, this photo is going into a book that’s being prepared by the Witte Museum for a retrospective of my art. It’s going to be the lead photo for the section of the book that features photos of the Virgen of Guadalupe. (The book is funded by the McCombs Family Foundation).
EDITOR’S NOTE: AL'S UPCOMING RETROSPECTIVE
The Witte Museum is preparing a retrospective exhibit of Al’s art, opening in September and running into January. It covers fifty years of work and a broad range of subjects. To complement the exhibit, The Witte is also publishing a book of Al’s art. It’s more than a catalog for the exhibit; it’s a standalone book with photos and with essays about his art. Here’s the information:
MI CULTURA: BRINGING SHADOWS INTO THE LIGHT
THE WITTE MUSEUM
SEPTEMBER 2 THROUGH JANUARY 4
See more of Al's work on his website.