The story goes that my great-grandfather, Antonio Villanueva, owned a ranch in Mexico so expansive that he could ride his horse all day and not come to the end of his property. That may or may not be true, but I like to think it is! The story continues on- He left Mexico to look for greater opportunities, and ended up in beautiful (wink, wink) Gallup, New Mexico. If you've ever been to Gallup, you might wonder why of all places in the continent of North America anyone would choose to stay there. "Because that's where your Great-Grandma was," they tell me.
Antonio Villanueva and Enriqueta Hernandez were married on July 19, 1920 in Gallup, New Mexico. They raised their 4 children there, including my grandma Mary. It was during this time that my great-grandfather became the owner of Tony's Photo Shop. (Doesn't that just scream small town?) At first I thought he mostly sold cameras and equipment, but upon further investigation I figured out that he mainly did portrait photography [cue the goosebumps]!
Recently I had the opportunity to literally blow the dust off of his old photography equipment- to hold in my hands what once belonged to him. The suitcase weighed a ton and the hinges squeaked when I opened the lid. It felt like Christmas as I carefully pulled out each piece and imagined how they all fit together. I kept thinking how awesome it was to look at a bit of history right in front of me, and to know that my current passion connects me to my past.
I am deeply in love with the thought that 100 years ago, my very own great-grandfather was making his way in the world through the same profession that I find myself in. I honestly believe that the force compelling me to pick up my camera is more than simple enjoyment. I believe it comes from somewhere deep down and long lasting, and that it started back in a small town of New Mexico and is very much alive in me today.
Enjoy these treasures friends!
My great-grandfather taking a self-portrait with the camera that is now a family heirloom.
A self portrait of my great-grandfather and a photo he took of my grandma. He always made sure she was wearing some type of jewelry-isn't she adorable in that tiny little bracelet!
Personalized envelopes from Tony's photo shop, and a letter addressed to my great-grandfather from 1944 asking for more prints of a portrait he had taken.
Notes he took about developing the film. I love the mixture of Spanish and English- proof that Spanglish goes all the way back to the 40's.
"Pro of AAV" (Antonio Antolino Villanueva)