A series of evocative portraits of Del Rio military veterans are on display this month at the Del Rio Council for the Arts Firehouse Gallery.
The portraits are on display at the Firehouse, 120 E. Garfield Ave., through the end of November. The gallery hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
The portrait series was created by Del Rio photographer Lucas Hernandez.
“I did portraits of local veterans who served overseas, people who are from Del Rio, and it started as something very small. Nancy (O’Brien, executive director for the Del Rio Council for the Arts) and I talked about doing something in the side room at the gallery to just showcase a few of our local veterans,” Hernandez said.
He said he only shot eight portraits.
“My plan was to do eight to 10 and knowing that there’s a ton of veterans in Del Rio, I was surprised by the amount of work that it took to get the eight portraits,” Hernandez said.
He said the idea for the portraits arose in conversations with his friend Raul Barrera, when the two went out to do street photography.
“Raul served in the Marines, and he served in the Army, and we would shoot on the street just to have fun, or we’d go to the studio and sit and eat pizza and shoot photos, and it was an idea that came up, and we talked about for a while,” Hernandez said.
He said he approached O’Brien, who encouraged him to move forward with his vision.
Hernandez said Barrera got busy with his job and wasn’t able to participate in the actual shooting of the portraits, but Hernandez said he was able to shoot a portrait of Barrera to include in the exhibit.
“His portrait, I like it, but I was joking with him that he looks a bad guy from the ‘Jason Bourne’ movies,” Hernandez said.
He said he knows many veterans.
“Pat Dugan is one. He was my teacher, and I spent probably 13 or 14 years every Saturday having breakfast with him, so I’ve heard all the amazing stories, and through Pat Dugan, you meet everybody else, like Papa Bear and so on and so on,” Hernandez said.
“It’s characters like that that I wanted to photograph. I wanted to find older veterans, and I also wanted to go up to people my age that served,” Hernandez added.
Hernandez said he was able to photograph one of his high school classmates, Mark Rodriguez, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Hernandez, who most often takes portraits of women, said men are more reticent about having their photos taken.
Hernandez said it was his intention to keep the portraits very simple.
“Everything I do is pretty simple. I try not to complicate it. Even when I shoot portraits of women, I shoot very clean, either with a plain white backdrop or an open road where there’s no clutter behind them, for instance.
“With the veteran photos – and this was an idea that Raul and I had – was to do it very moody, very dark, one side lighted and one side in shadow. So my setup was very mobile. I did a few of the portraits in the veterans’ homes, in their living rooms, and all it was, was a piece of black paper behind them and one light,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez said he didn’t want viewers to be distracted by anything else in the photo.
“I wanted to do it that way, because the story is in the face. I didn’t need a flag in the back. I didn’t need uniforms, or any of that. I just needed them,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez said he is pleased with the way the photos came out.
The show opened at the Firehouse gallery on Friday, Nov. 1.
“One of the comments I got Friday at the show opening was that the viewer liked the way the veterans were captured, and I think that’s something else: All of us here in Del Rio know veterans. We see them daily and we talk to them all the time and we work with them. We have family members that are veterans, and they’re people just like us, but in the photos, their story is written their faces, the wrinkles, the shadows, their eyes,” Hernandez said.
“You can almost tell they’re veterans, and that’s what I like. If I could do that with every portrait I do, that would be amazing,” he added.