Documenting Latino photographers

Imelda Macias
Capturing images of their lives in West Marin, the members of the Latino Photography Project have become documentarians. Now, a documentary filmmaker is capturing their story—and raising funds to complete the film in a March benefit.  
02/21/2019

The participants of the Latino Photography Project document the traditions and vibrancy of West Marin’s Latino population—and for the last year, filmmaker Alejandro Palacios has been examining the photographers’ connection to the craft and their communities. 

On March 24, Mr. Palacios will screen a trailer of his documentary in a benefit at the Dance Palace. The event will feature live music, food and drink, and a panel of students and teachers speaking about the project and the photographers’ own work. 

The photography project was created 15 years ago; participants have classes on Monday nights, and instructors come in to advise them and go through their work. The group has held exhibitions at Gallery Route One, which also helps to fund it, with past exhibits looking at issues like cuisine, work and family. 

Elizabeth Fennwick, one of the organizers, previously told the Light that the photographers’ work is a way to understand and celebrate the Latino community. 

“At one point in time there were two very separate communities: the Latino community and everybody else,” she said. “Both communities, through this project, have come to know each other.” 

Mr. Palacios, a Nicasio resident who has been working in film for a decade, saw a flyer for one of the exhibits and was intrigued. He began the project by attending the group’s classes as an observer, and then spent time with the photographers before jumping into interviews or shadowing subjects in the field. He has followed them on field trips around West Marin and on individual photographic expeditions. 

One of his subjects, Maricela Mora—an Aztec dancer and photographer—specializes in portraits of children and Aztec dancers. Mr. Palacios joined Ms. Mora and her husband when they went to Santa Jose for a celebration at which the dancers were performing. 

“They’re not just part of the celebrating, but documenting, and being active about what they’re doing,” he said. 

Mr. Palacios hopes the documentary will alert the Anglo community about the artistic skill and leadership of the participants in the project. 

He listed ways his subjects contribute to their communities: working in the food pantry, organizing events for schools, and taking part in educational events centered around their heritage. 

In May, Mr. Palacios will head to Boston to document a former project participant, a DACA recipient getting her master’s degree at Harvard. He described her as “super-active activist, super involved,” and said that stories like hers “are the kinds of stories we need to tell to empower this community and celebrate what they’re doing.” 

Mr. Palacios hopes that by showing people a 10-minute snippet of the documentary he will be able to raise funds to continue it; eventually, he would like to make a 45-minute film to take to classrooms, libraries and conferences. 

“It’s clear that they start to change the way integration is perceived: a way to talk about leadership and re-arrange the narrative,” he said. “To me, that’s something not only helpful to them, but they’re encouraging other people to take the same approach to immigration. It helps [people] realize that you have a multi-layered people: there’s more about us than just being workers or working hands.” 

 

A screening of the trailer for "Dos Rivers," Alejandro Palacios's documentary about the Latino Photography Project, will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, on March 24 at the Dance Palace Community Center, in Point Reyes Station. A conversation with the photographers and teachers follows. For more information, visit dosriversfundraiser.splashthat.com.