Mujeres Poderosas, twelve

Rosa Navejar is the final of the 12 woman from the Mujeres Poderosas project.. As a girl she was told that she would be a housewife and mother, and nothing more. When she was working in banking, her boss told her that she had three strikes against her--she was a woman, Hispanic and Catholic. Despite all of that, she worked to break the limitations others imposed on her and went on to become the first woman president of the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. It took a while for others to get used to a woman at the help of the organization. After 11 years with the chamber, she bought The Rios Group, a sub-surface utility engineering company where she heads a team comprised mostly of men. 

Rosa Navejar

Rosa Navejar

Rosa in The Rios Group shop discussing the fleet with her team.

Rosa in The Rios Group shop discussing the fleet with her team.

Mujeres Poderosas, eleven

Irma Perez was working for Meals on Wheels as a social worker when she was diagnosed with macular degeneration. The loss of vision led to her retirement. Nonetheless, she remains involved in Fort Worth community life with volunteer activities. One of the pieces of advice she has for young women is to "not allow others to define who you are." And, "Always respect yourself and others and you will be respected."

Irma at her home.

Irma at her home.

Irma spends some time with one of her granddaughters, Adriana. 

Irma spends some time with one of her granddaughters, Adriana. 

Mujeres Poderosas, ten

Esperanza "Hope" Padilla Ayala was born and grew up on Fort Worth's north side, where she still lives. In her mind, a strong Latina "embraces her community, gives back to that community ... understands her responsibility to promote hope, idealisms and assist others in defining their future." Well into her eighties, she still lives by those tenets; she remains involved as a volunteer at her church and with an organization called The Goodfellows. She's passed on those ideals of community activism to her three children, who are also deeply involved in their community. She has nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. 

Esperanza stands in front of the Catholic Men's Club, which used to be the San Jose Catholic Church, the heart of religious and social life in the Fort Worth neighborhood where she grew up.

Esperanza stands in front of the Catholic Men's Club, which used to be the San Jose Catholic Church, the heart of religious and social life in the Fort Worth neighborhood where she grew up.

Esperanza still has the speech she read as valedictorian of her senior class at Mount Carmel Academy in Fort Worth. The academy is now All Saints Catholic School.

Esperanza still has the speech she read as valedictorian of her senior class at Mount Carmel Academy in Fort Worth. The academy is now All Saints Catholic School.

Mujeres Poderosas, nine

Sandra Tovar and her family entered the U.S. illegally to escape threats on their lives in Mexico. They were lucky. An aunt who also tried to enter the U.S. ended up dying in the process. Now Sandra has deferred action status that she must renew every two years, but there's no legal path to citizenship or permanent residency for her. As someone who knows what it's like to be in this limbo status, she's a big advocate for immigration policy change, and for those who seek a better life in the United States. 

Sandra Tovar at her home.

Sandra Tovar at her home.

Some of the essays written by immigrant and refugee teens who Sandra has worked with through the non-profit, non-partisan Mi Familia Vota. The agency focuses on developing leadership among young people.

Some of the essays written by immigrant and refugee teens who Sandra has worked with through the non-profit, non-partisan Mi Familia Vota. The agency focuses on developing leadership among young people.

Mujeres Poderosas, six

Sandra Salinas finds strength and power in rearing her children and making a home for them and her husband. Spending time with Sandra and her family reminded me of my mother's Alzheimer's diagnosis and how it forced me to shift my identity. I went from being a career woman whose work paid her way to being a daughter funneled into a caregiving role. It took swallowing my pride to admit that some years I earned very little due to spending much more time caregiving than working. Sandra reminded me that there is power in those identities that society tends to overlook because it more often values what we do than who we are.

Sandra in her Fort Worth home.

Sandra in her Fort Worth home.

The Salinas family after school, with Sandra putting in volunteer hours and her husband Jaime helping the girls with their homework.

The Salinas family after school, with Sandra putting in volunteer hours and her husband Jaime helping the girls with their homework.

Mujeres Poderosas, five

She founded and runs three Fort Worth businesses--a roofing company, a waste disposal company, and a real estate company. This is one busy woman and has a curio cabinet full of awards attesting to her business acumen. Sandra McGlothlin is a role model for getting things done!

Sandra, on the balcony of her 27th floor condo in downtown Fort Worth. Owning a roofing company means you can't be afraid of heights.

Sandra, on the balcony of her 27th floor condo in downtown Fort Worth. Owning a roofing company means you can't be afraid of heights.

Sandra walking on the campus of her roofing and disposal company with one of her managers.

Sandra walking on the campus of her roofing and disposal company with one of her managers.

Mujeres Poderosas, four

Cynthia Montes' story moved me deeply. Despite losing her father at an early age, she applied to Texas Christian University, an expensive private school in Fort Worth. She paid her way in part by working several jobs, including mowing lawns. Now she's a counselor to other students at TCU, and she continues to challenge herself with races such as the Cowtown half marathon, the Tough Mudder, and others. She is indeed, a powerful woman role model.

Cynthia Montes on the Texas Christian University Campus. 

Cynthia Montes on the Texas Christian University Campus. 

Cynthia Montes shares a moment of joy with her mother, Irma.

Cynthia Montes shares a moment of joy with her mother, Irma.

Mujeres poderosas, three

Sharon Herrera is another one of the women featured in the Fort Worth Human Relations Commission project, Mujeres Poderosas. A lesbian activist who founded and heads LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S, a Fort Worth organization dedicated to supporting LGBTQ youths, she knows the struggles of dealing with sexual orientation issues.

Sharon Herrera at home, in the apartment she shares with her wife, Marcel.

Sharon Herrera at home, in the apartment she shares with her wife, Marcel.

Sharon shows me a photo of the aunt who saved her life when she was a suicidal teen struggling with the condemnation of others due to her sexual orientation. Now, Sharon helps young people who are facing struggles of their own.

Sharon shows me a photo of the aunt who saved her life when she was a suicidal teen struggling with the condemnation of others due to her sexual orientation. Now, Sharon helps young people who are facing struggles of their own.

Mujeres Poderosas, two

Some photos don't make the cut for a project, but I like them anyway. The first photo is a favorite outtake from the Mujeres Poderosas project that will be on exhibit at The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History beginning March 4. It runs through Women's History Month. 

I had roughly six weeks to photograph mini-stories on twelve women, which occasionally stretched my creativity. Fortunately the subjects were all incredibly helpful. They allowed me the freedom to try different locations and poses for the portrait portion of the project, as well as the part that required me to simply be a fly on the wall of their lives for a little while. This isn't a perfect photo but I love the attitude Susie's smile radiates and the way the violin shape mimics her body. The second photo is of a cherished memento.

Susie Olmos-Soto comes from a large mariachi family. This is one of the three violins she owns and the last one with which she performed. She's also wearing the silver-studded charro jacket that's part of her mariachi outfit. 

Susie Olmos-Soto comes from a large mariachi family. This is one of the three violins she owns and the last one with which she performed. She's also wearing the silver-studded charro jacket that's part of her mariachi outfit. 

Susie sometimes wears a pendant with her mother's photo on it. I attended a concert in which Susie's son performed with his high school band, and Susie wore the locket as a way to honor her mother's own music, as well as to have her present at the performance.

Susie sometimes wears a pendant with her mother's photo on it. I attended a concert in which Susie's son performed with his high school band, and Susie wore the locket as a way to honor her mother's own music, as well as to have her present at the performance.

Mujeres Poderosas

Last fall, the Fort Worth Human Relations Commission approached me about photographing a project that would be part of the city's broader program, Latino Americans, 500 Years of History. The Commission was among 203 grant recipients across the country selected to receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association to hold public programming about Latino history and culture.

Among the ideas the commissioners generated was to celebrate Latinas who'd helped shape Fort Worth with their work, vision, volunteerism, activism, and business acumen. Twelve women were selected and I set out to capture a mini photo story of each one. The photos will complement a bit of oral and written history about each woman in an exhibit March 4-31 at The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. I'll be sharing some of these photos here leading up to the exhibit.

Tammy Melody Gomez is a Fort Worth poet, author and activist. Here, she models a set of bandoliers filled with an artist's ammunition--pencils and lipsticks. 

Tammy Melody Gomez is a Fort Worth poet, author and activist. Here, she models a set of bandoliers filled with an artist's ammunition--pencils and lipsticks. 

Among Gomez's treasures is a dog-eared copy of Elie Wiesel's memoir, Night, about his experience in the Nazi concentration camps. It's a book that Gomez's family read together when she was a girl.

Among Gomez's treasures is a dog-eared copy of Elie Wiesel's memoir, Night, about his experience in the Nazi concentration camps. It's a book that Gomez's family read together when she was a girl.