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Last Sunday, situated among a lavish backdrop of flowers at the Capitol Rose Garden in downtown Sacramento an eclectic assembly of photographers, models, hair-stylists, and make-up artists gathered for a special photo-shoot. The theme for the shoot was “Day of the Dead”.
The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is a Mexican holiday where family and friends pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration takes place November 1st and 2nd to coincide with the Catholic holidays of All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2).
In many American communities with Mexican residents, Day of the Dead celebrations are held that are very similar to those held in Mexico. Many festivals begin with the All Souls Procession and combines elements of traditional Day of the Dead celebrations with those pagan harvest festivals. People wearing masks or painted faces carry signs honoring the dead and an urn in which people can place slips of paper with prayers on them to be later burned.
Benancio Garza (20), a student at American River College and Equality Action NOW, a local civil rights organization board member and youth leader who also dabbles in modeling jumped at the chance to become involved in this project. “I am excited to be a part of such a large collaborative effort. I love art that has meaning and I am hoping this project will touch the lives of many people who see it.”
The idea of the shoot came from a professional photographer, who also happens to be on the board of Equality Action NOW, Vihil Heather Vigil. “Dia de Los Muertos honors the cycle of life and in particular ancestors, friends, and others who were inspirational or affected our lives in some manner,” said Vigil.
“Last year I had the amazing experience of being in Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Mexico for Dia de Los Muertos. To see an entire country decorating and celebrating left such an imprint that I can't ever see myself not celebrating this very special occasion. As a Native American and a Latina it is a part of my culture to celebrate and not focus on the death of someone who passes, instead we celebrate their life.”
Vihil of Vihil Photographix Fine Art Photography explained what she will do the photographs after the shoot. “The photographs are going to be crafted for large size 20x30+ inch prints. There are three galleries who have already expressed interest in the final images for potential exhibitions; we will be doing a calendar and possibly a book. I really like putting table top photography books together of my work it allows the viewer to become more personal with all the various images contained within.”
While some of the models arrived on the set already make-up, Garza had his own professional stylist team meet him an hour prior to the shoot on site. Shane Howell and his partner, Joe Jaramillo together own Roots Hair Salon in downtown Woodland. Howell and Jaramillo, who also are in a domestic partnership, moved from San Francisco where they are both well-known and have attended the city’s popular “Day of the Dead” festivals for years.
Ben’s friend and modeling manager, Ken Pierce contacted the talented couple because, “This photo-shoot is important for Ben’s future in modeling and I didn’t want an amateur stylist working on his hair and make-up. Joe and Shane are perfect because they are super talented and their experience with attending ‘Day of the Dead’ festivals is invaluable.”
Garza was the only male model on the set among fifteen female models that afternoon so getting photographed by the four photographers who will all be sharing their work with Vigil was not a problem. Kati Garner, a well-known local photojournalist and photographer for Equality Action NOW had a field day working with Garza on the set. “Benancio is a natural and my camera is in love with him. He is so easy to work with and only needs a little direction to get the shots I want from him. I think he will mature as a model rather quickly and will soon be in demand once people see the work he did today.”
By sunset thousands of pictures were taken of the models who were not paid but will be used by them for their own professional portfolios. This was Garza’s second modeling gig. The first was for Sacramento’s Q Magazine. While his focus will continue to be working with the youth through his civil rights organization, attending school, Garza hopes to find more opportunities to model for fashion photography and perhaps try his hand in on a fashion show runway.
To find out more about where to view the “Day of the Dead” photos contact Vihil Heather Vigil on her web site or email Ms_Vihil@yahoo.com. To contact Benancio Garza you can email his manager, Ken Pierce at email@example.com. For information about Joe and Shane of Roots Hair Salon contact Joe Jarmamillo at firstname.lastname@example.org.