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De Los Santos': The 'Tejano Project'

By Oscar Widales and Monica Luna
On March 1, 2007

A National Geographic photographer has created a project focused completely on Texas' border culture.

Penny De Los Santos' South Texas art exhibit opened January 25 at the Fine and Performing Arts' Gallery.

A native of the area, De los Santos has always had a particular interest in South Texas.

Her exhibit, entitled "The Tejano Project," explores the border community and includes images of events in Laredo, such as the Martha Washington Celebration.

"It's great! It's a beautiful facility. I am very excited about how the work looks, and I'm excited about the turnout; we have a very really, really good turnout," said De Los Santos at the opening reception.

After visiting the exhibit Alejandro Maza, a senior Communication major, stated, "It was a wonderful experience for us art majors because we don't often have the opportunity to review the work of a National Geographic photographer."

Professors and staff members also appreciated the work.

"She (De Los Santos) has access to people and situations that I could never hope to have access to as an outsider, but some of it looks really familiar to me. I think that lots of people who are from Laredo would say that she's got things that are really true, so I think its amazing work," Dr. Sean Chadwell, associate professor and chair of the Department of Language and Literature, observed.

The photographs are part of a four-year project funded by the National Geographic magazine in 2003 that culminated in the publication of an 18-page story in the November 2006 issue.

As she worked on the project, De Los Santos' truly experienced different views of border life. She lived with families in "Colonias," unincorporated border communities, as well as with debutants of the Martha Washington Celebration.

"I definitely saw sort of the extremes of life along the border," De Los Santos said.

De Los Santos has achieved national recognition. Her work has appeared in Time Magazine, Sports Illustrated Magazine, Texas Monthly Magazine, among others.

"Its important that you find a project that you care a lot about," De Los Santos stated. "Invest in your own personal work in your own personal vision. That's the only way you can cultivate your creativity. It's got to be a priority, if you are going to be committed to it."

The exhibit will be on display until March 1 at the gallery.

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