Over the years, I’ve spent a great deal of time documenting the Mexican American culture of San Antonio and South Texas, including the Conjunto and Tejano music scene.
No Tejano artist was more significant than Selena, and I had the privilege of working with her as her career exploded. Selena and I collaborated on capturing her image for album covers, publicity shots, news media, and advertising. She was active in every photo session, working with me to get exactly the shot we both wanted.
My photos of Selena have appeared in museum exhibits, inside national magazines and on covers of People and Newsweek special editions. Many of them are in the collection of the Smithsonian.
Selena in the Media
Selena has been the subject of a great deal of media coverage, and my photos were used in much of it. Below is a sampling, including an excerpt from an interview with me that was published in this special edition of Newsweek.
My dad was a wood carver and woodworker in San Antonio, and as a teenager I’d always be outside helping him in his garage working on projects.
He always had the radio tuned to a Mexican music channel, but I didn’t care for that music very much when I was 16 or 17 years old. I was more into rock & roll and spent 10 or 15 years photographing shows. But then, as I got older I started to rediscover my Hispanic roots and doing work for the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio.
Slowly, Tejano music started to creep into the headlines, and Selena came up with it.
I can tell you right now, from all the years I had worked with rock bands, the first time I saw Selena I knew that girl just had it. She was going to be big. There was no stopping her.
I was lucky and fortunate that I met her early in her career and saw her become a big star. She came out of the dressing room decked out head-to-toe, did her own makeup, did her own hair, put her own outfits together. sewed it all, everything.
She did her own look, had her own designs. It was very much like how Frida Kahlo emulated traditional Mexican clothing in her own way. Selena had her own traditional Mexican clothing, but she made it in her own way. Frida Kahlo dressed like that to stand out and be different. Selena wanted to stand out and be different. And Selena didn't really become famous until after she died, just like Frida Kahlo.
Today, Selena is becoming more and more like Frida Kahlo in my mind-especially in her popularity.
It seems like whenever someone famous dies, it takes about 20 years for everyone to rediscover them again. It happened with Frida; now her paintings are more famous than Diegos.
Or with The Doors-20 years after Jim Morrison died, all of a sudden they were famous again. The same thing happened with James Dean and Marilyn Monroe.
Now all these kids that were born around the time Selena died are suddenly discovering her music. It's just phenomenal to me. I’m happy that Selena is being given her due.
My Interview with Newsweek
As Selena Receives Her Hollywood Walk of Fame Star, a Dream Lives on in Song
Al Rendon remembers a photography session with Selena
National Museum of American History
A New Exhibit Shows How Selena Quintanilla Changed the World of Marketing