A portrait of a family

The annual Help-Portrait event was held at the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless as it has for the previous 10 years. Each year I help gather talented local photographers, hair stylists and makeup artist to provide Christmas portraits for those living at the shelter. This year’s event was on December 1.

Every year there has been one or two adults who only want to have pictures take of the kids but not of themselves and this year was no different.

Shelter resident Special Valdovinos brought her 3 sons, Jacob, 10, Joshua, 4, and Lincoln 2, to our makeshift studio in the the facility’s multi-purpose room in the morning, one of our first clients. She wanted photos of them but not of herself. She watched as Shumesa Mohsin, a University of the Pacific student and talented young photographer, took their photo.

I sidled up to Valdovinos and suggested that we could take a photo of her with her sons but she demurred. She suggested that she wasn’t picture worthy referring to her appearance. Several months pregnant, she was searing sweatpants and a t-shirt. She wore no makeup and her shoulder-shoulder-length black hair was pulled tightly back in a bun. I told her that she looked great but if she wanted, we had people there to do hair and makeup, but she shyly declined. I then told her that we’d be there most of the day in case she changed her mind.

The day got busier after that with a flurry of activity of photos being shot, edited then printed. At one point I went to check on the women doing the hair and makeup to see how they were doing when I ran into Valdovinos in the hallway. I once again offered to have her and her kids photographed and once more she gave a shy smile but declined. Then I told her that when her kids were older, they are going to want a photo of them all together. It would be a reminder to them that, even in hard times, they were a family. I lost track of Valdovinos after that.

Near the end of the day we were finishing up the last portraits when I noticed Valdovinos again. She was waiting for her pictures to be printed. At first I didn’t recognize her. She had changed her clothes to black pants, a black leather jacket and a red shirt. Her hair and makeup made her the envy of any fashion model. I found out later they were done by volunteer Lissette Andrade who did and incredible job bringing Valdoinos’ inner beauty to the surface.

Valdovinos held the 4 x 6- inch prints in her hands and smiled at her happy family in the pictures.

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  • Blog Author

    Clifford Oto

    Clifford Oto, an award-winning photographer, has been with The Record since 1984. Through the changes from black and white to digital photography, he’s kept his focus on covering the events, people and life of San Joaquin county. This blog deals ... Read Full
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