Local Photographer Captures the Spirit of Santa Ana Through Porch Portraits



Santa Ana photographer Karissa Raya remembers her mother regularly lugging all-around a Pentax film camera growing up. Whether or not it was for loved ones get-togethers or holidays, Raya’s mother was always snapping pictures, capturing each individual instant on a roll of Kodak film. 

“It didn’t bother me till I was a teen I was like, ‘Oh my God, Mom, like quit, you’re having pictures of every little thing.’ But that was seriously born for her from her working experience of not having any pictures of her life. She has a handful of images that exist from her childhood,” Raya said. 

Raya quickly observed herself playing with her mother’s camera, eventually turning a hobby into a professional service in 2018. 

Now, Raya is having on her first lengthy-expression challenge as she began photographing Santa Ana citizens and their families in front of their residences. Photographing porch portraits due to the fact 2020, Raya required to document the love and joy among the families in the course of a time when folks are socially distancing and sheltering in position. 

“I was like all right, you know, we can do some family portraits in front of the house. That’ll be entertaining and simple devoid of having to get prepared and go someplace else and get all fancy. It was the adaptability and just the casualness of it that caught my awareness to do it,” explained Loni Paniagua, a participant of the challenge and founder of Amigas Social Club

The inspiration at the rear of the porch portraits came from a countrywide challenge that started out in March 2020 by East Coastline photographers Cara Soulia and Kristen Collins, who identified as it “The Entrance Measures Undertaking.” 

Right after noticing that “Front Steps” featured single-family properties and nuclear people, Raya preferred to carry much more variety to the job by having portraits of families who reside in Raya’s hometown of Santa Ana, she claimed. 

“What I regarded was that there are so a lot of varieties of family members, single-mother or father family members and condominium-dwelling people, so I wished to do it in Santa Ana,” Raya explained. 

In an hard work to spotlight the people of Santa Ana, the porch portraits are no cost for any individual who would like to participate. People will receive no cost electronic copies of their images, but Raya also accepts donations for people who would like to aid her. 

Wendy Youngs, a participant in the undertaking and Raya’s close friend, experienced her portraits taken at her parents’ household, a house they’ve had for about 30 decades. Youngs’ childhood home became a next home in which she now raises her 2-yr-old son. 

Wendy and Hugo Youngs in 2020 on the still left, and in 2021 on the correct.
These portraits had been taken as a element of the “This Is Santa Ana” task.

“That’s the house I grew up in. And I nevertheless feel like it’s my household since I operate there, and I’m there each weekday with my son. So it almost feels like he’s increasing up in the very same residence I grew up in,” Youngs reported. “So it is pleasant to just take pics, exactly where my mom probably took photographs of us working about.”

Raya has photographed around 55 households considering the fact that last year, as nicely as adhering to up with them and retaking their pics this year to present the one particular-yr change. She is continuing to consider far more requests of Santa Ana households who want to be showcased in Raya’s “This is Santa Ana: Porch Portraits Selection.” The porch portraits will be on display screen for cost-free at Callejon del Beso, an outdoor artwork area in the Artists Village in Santa Ana, from 4-8 p.m. Aug. 21.

James and Patricia Salazar with their daughters in 2020 on the still left, and in 2021 on the suitable.
These portraits were being taken as a aspect of the “This Is Santa Ana” job.
Loni and Louie Buenrostro with their children in 2020 on the still left, and in 2021 on the correct. These portraits were being taken as a element of the “This Is Santa Ana” task.
The Hillenbrand relatives in 2020 on the still left, and in 2021 on the correct. These portraits have been taken as a part of the “This Is Santa Ana” undertaking.

“I like to just investigate various creative initiatives and create on thoughts,” Raya claimed. “So this is the 1st extended-expression venture that I, like, identify I really don’t want it to finish with just porch portraits. I want this Santa Ana task to evolve and go on to mature.” 

Bringing Visibility to Santa Ana

Being born and raised in Santa Ana, Raya explained she wishes to deliver much more visibility to her local community as the “The Entrance Methods Project” birthed a new task, “This is Santa Ana.”

This is Santa Ana” is an ongoing neighborhood photograph task setting up to highlight the distinct men and women who stay in Santa Ana by that includes a assortment of portraits from elders, business owners and other folks who reside in the local community. 

Raya will be commencing her elders/abuelos assortment this slide. 

“My purpose is really centered on the strategy that I want us to have much more picture evidence for our long run generations. To have documentation that we have been alive, who we ended up,” Raya explained.   

From still left, Javier, Monica and Maria Nunez and Christina, Oscar and Alyssa Gonzalez. This portrait was taken as a portion of the “This Is Santa Ana” job. Credit history: Image courtesy of Karissa Raya

Raya’s parents immigrated from Mexico to Santa Ana when they had been youthful. Her dad and mom felt that they experienced to conceal nearly anything associated to their tradition as they were hoping to assimilate into American lifestyle, she mentioned. 

“Learning about their expertise of needing to assimilate, needing to not be seen as who they have been culturally. You could not discuss Spanish, you know, mastering English and totally immersing into the lifestyle here to sense comfy and validated,” Raya claimed. 

Raya’s function of visibility, comfortability and self-confidence via her portraits comes from this notion of folks not staying or sensation noticed for the reason that of their immigration standing, system image or other insecurities.

“There’s so numerous layers. That’s what bought me to the strategy of currently being observed. Like, I see you as you are, you see yourself as you are. And you are, like, relaxed with the person you are adequate to take a photograph and be able to print it and place it on your wall or share it and notify your tale.”

Patricia Salazar, Raya’s friend and participant in the job, bought her portraits taken past calendar year and this year. The initially was with her prolonged family members – her spouse, two daughters, mother-in-regulation, brother-in-law, sister-in-regulation and her partner and their two youngsters – who all reside less than the exact roof in their Santa Ana dwelling, along with a newborn girl she and her partner were fostering. In the course of the 2nd round, those people photographed were being Salazar, her husband and their two daughters. 

The Calderon relatives. This portrait was taken as a aspect of the “This Is Santa Ana” project. Credit score: Picture courtesy of Karissa Raya

Although Salazar’s husband has collections of shots of himself and his household growing up, Salazar does not have a great deal to look back again on, earning the family members portraits that Raya took even much more sentimental and unforgettable for her.

“I didn’t grow up with photos which is some thing that I sort of regret,” she explained. “I like to search back at my husband’s photos to see how he was, specifically now with our girls. And which is why I think, also, that I like making sure we photograph precise times of our existence.” 

“This is Santa Ana: Porch Portraits Collection” is introduced in collaboration with Neighborhood Engagement, the Santa Ana Business Council, and neighborhood local community teams Amigas Social Club and Mommies Unidas as section of the Kid-Welcoming Initiative in downtown Santa Ana. The initiative is being applied as an effort to help make downtown Santa Ana extra spouse and children welcoming by making additional inclusive spaces, stated Flor Reyes, founder of Mommies Unidas. 

Raya will continue to take porch portraits immediately after the presentation of her portraits at the out of doors artwork room, so for these in Santa Ana intrigued in acquiring their loved ones portrait taken and turning into a element of the porch portraits project, indicator-ups are by way of Raya’s web site, Olive la Vida.

“I’m super energized to go see them, all the portraits (at the outside gallery),” Salazar explained. “I saw a couple that she experienced posted and I’m seriously keen to see what other families have been up to in just that year much too. Let us see what changes arrived about in their little families as nicely.”

Kristina Garcia is a producing fellow for Voice of OC Arts & Tradition. She can be attained at [email protected]