About This Project
Human nature is subliminally fearful toward the mentally exceptional. Most of us have never looked directly into the faces of those who are mentally ill, afraid perhaps to catch a glimpse of our own souls.
“Mentes Hermosas” (Beautiful Minds) is a portrait exhibit created with the intention to shine a light on a slice of humanity that is often tucked away and forgotten. I hope this gallery will change the way you see uniqueness and its beauty among us.
This project has been several years in the making. The idea originated when I was asked by my father to accompany him in visiting a mental asylum in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico for the monthly volunteering event called “Hot Dog Day”. After my first encounter with the patients and founder Pastor Jose Antonio Galvan at Vision En Accion Mission Rescate, A.C., I knew that I was destined to use my God-given talent to assist the inspiring and marvelous work that I have witnessed at the asylum.
After discussing my idea with Pastor Galvan, a year later my assistant David Meneses and I made the two-hour journey from El Paso to Ciudad Juarez in Mexico. The asylum is nested in the middle of a peaceful and barren desert about 40 miles from the Santa Teresa port-of-entry in New Mexico. Warmly welcomed by Pastor Galvan, we found the ideal location to set up our mobile studio in the new wing for the elderly. With the assistance of the asylum staff, a portrait studio blossomed.
The patients were led to the shooting area one by one. Here each of them perused the unusual surrounding with surprise before shuffling or being wheeled in front of the backdrop. Pastor Galvan and his assistant Josue - former patient and now a nurse - gently helped each subject pose as they preferred while explaining what was happening. When comfortable, everyone expressed themselves as they liked. Appearances, poses and environment are truly natural and organic.
For the next several hours, we became completely absorbed in this indelible portrait experience few have ever had the privilege to witness and enjoy. The true delight for a new experience, the deep satisfaction of having a first portrait taken and the human dignity in their expressions were finally captured to be memorialized and celebrated.
Vision En Accion Mission Rescate, A.C. (www.VisionInActionRescueAsylum.com) is a safe haven where those with neurological and mental conditions receive free and loving care. It has been in existence for over for over 25 years. A momentary and daily miracle occurs for those who will see this testament and passion for mankind. The needs are constant.
This exhibit’s goal is to bring the widest attention and deepest concern for the investment into the lives that can flourish here. As you study and enjoy these marvelous human beings — our brothers and sisters — may you not only appreciate the frailness of mankind but sense the precious stirring that gently and lovingly calls out to your heart and soul.
Please consider inviting this compelling exhibit to your city by contacting your local museum or art gallery curator, and joining us in sharing this wonder.
-Art Moreno, Jr., Photographer
El Paso, Texas - U.S.A.
The photography equipment used included a Pentax 645z with a 55mm F/2.8 DF-A IF SDM lens, two Profoto D-1 Studio Lights with C-stands, a Westcott 7’ Parabolic Umbrella, a 46” Photek Soft Lighter II Umbrella, a black-cloth background on a Savage Background Stand and a posing stool.
Background capture courtesy of Joel Salcido Photography