Saluting a Master Photographer
I have known Oscar Castillo for well over fifty years and I couldn’t resist adding to Dr, Ricardo Romo’s appreciation of Oscar and his work. Oscar and I first met in the Fall of 1971 when he walked into my office at the KCET studios on Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles. Quiet, thoughtful and unpretentious, he held in his hands a small photo file box. Inside was a stack of black and white photographs that documented the recently held city council and school board political elections in Crystal City, Texas. A few months earlier, the La Raza Unida political party, a third political party whose membership was comprised primarily of Mexican Americans, had swept local elections in Crystal City as well as Cotulla and Ulvalde, Texas. It was historic and prophetic moment for Mexican Americans in the United States and Oscar Castillo had been there to document it.
Our paths crossed a few months later, when we both attended the 1972 La Raza Unida National convention convened in El Paso, Texas. I was there serving as media coordinator for the partido but also making a documentary film about the convention. Within a short time, Oscar and I teamed up and it was Oscar who shot still photo sequences that I later incorporated into my documentary film, La Raza Unida. That week would prove to historic for the both of us. On my return to Los Angeles, I offered Oscar a job as Production Associate on Acción Chicano, a new weekly television show I was producing at television station KCET. Oscar accepted and would work with me at KCET for the next two years eventually rising to be Associate Producer at KCET but all the while adhering to his first love, the camera.
In 1973 he documented the National Convention of the United Farm Workers, held in Fresno, California. Not only did he document the event for the television show he was producing, but his still camera was ever present to capture the moments for photographic history. Also at that time Oscar used his camera to chronicle the collaboration between Luis Valdez’s El Teatro Campesino and the Mexico City drama troupe, Los Mascarones, a joint drama production titled Somos Uno. Oscar was also responsible for the cover photography on A & M album “Mestizo,” featuring legendary musician Daniel Valdez.
Throughout his career Oscar has photographed the whos-who of the Chicano movement: César Chavez, Dolores Huerta, José Ángel Gutiérrez, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzalez, Oscar “Zeta” Acosta, Reies López Tijerina, Luis Valdez, Richard Cruz, Lalo Guerrero, Dr. Rudy Acuña, Daniel Valdez, Frank Del Olmo, Bert Corona and many others as well as the music groups El Chicano, Los Lobos and Tierra.
His body of work distinguishes him not just as an artist committed to his craft and to his people, but one worth of being singled out as a true Master Photographer.
–Jesus Salvador Trevino
Note: This remembrance is based on the preface that I wrote for Oscar Castillo’s book of Photography: Oscar Castillo Papers and Photograph Collection edited by Colin Gunkel which is available at: