The Selena Series
She drove up by herself in her little red hatchback and parked in front of my studio. I had gotten a call from Mas Magazine, a magazine devoted to Latino culture and lifestyle. They wanted a cover and main spread profiling this young Texas singer who was starting to make a name for herself in the world of Tejano music. I had heard of Selena but I didn’t know very much about her and certainly had no idea of what was to come.
I spent the day before the shoot setting up several backdrops in the studio so I could photograph her in a variety of situations and costumes. I knew I had her for the full day and wanted to take advantage of our time together.
She jumped out of her car with a big smile. A naturally beautiful young Latina with jet-black hair, flawless skin, and a perfect figure. She opened the hatchback. It was crammed full of her preforming costumes, many hand made, all of her own design.
We shot roll after roll of transparency film (this was before digital photography). For the cover, we shot in front of a gray background. Then we moved in front of a red curtain above a black and white checked floor. We ended outside the studio against a white seamless in the warm afternoon light. Selena’s quick smile, infectious laugh, and unending energy made her a pleasure to work with. This was in 1992.
In early 1995, Texas Monthly called and wanted to do a spread on Selena. By now, she had achieved incredible fame and transcended the boundaries of the Texas music scene. We met at the Majestic Theater in San Antonio, a favorite place of mine. She had just finished two exhausting days of shooting TV commercials for a corporate sponsor. She was tired. I had brought a beautiful hand-made jacket for her to wear. I posed her in the alcove on the mezzanine of the theater where the light is particularly nice. She was subdued and pensive. A far cry from the ebullient, excited young singer I’d photographed 3 years earlier. Later I thought her mood might have been an eerie harbinger of what was to come.
Between when I photographed her at the Majestic and the Texas Monthly article coming out, she was killed. The art director, my old friend DJ Stout, used one of the more somber shots I had done for his cover chronicling her death. He sent me a hand written note not too long after the issue appeared saying the cover with my photograph of Selena was one of the strongest he’d ever done. It’s a cover I would rather not have had.
Selena’s senseless, tragic death on March 31, 1995, shocked millions and continues to sadden to this day. She was 23.