My mom Cristela. Cristela was raised poor in Mexico in a town called Piaxtla, in the state of Puebla. She spent all of her time in Mexico raising sheep and selling tamales on the street – 1 of 14 children. Back then, children were farmhands and education wasn’t really something that was instilled in them. With no education, and few skills, she came to the US and met my dad Rafael (Sr.).

My Dad also didnt go to school. Two uneducated parents raising 7 children in the South Bronx. Let’s say education wasnt a priority for them.. but they made it for us. There isnt a day that doesnt go by that I don’t think of the sacrifices both of them made for all of us.

This Christmas she asked me to set her up with a computer. Her lack of education (and command of English) always made her feel like she was inferior.. but she never stopped wanting to try. True to that.. I got her a computer we had in the garage and we set it up.

She’s working it out – bit by bit. It’s always amazing to see someone just starting.. and she has an incredible way to go. It was good to see how much she lit up at the chance to be just like everyone else. That was a great Christmas present that we were all able to share.



  1. Such a wonderful story RC! Family… Nothing more special than that and especially a mom! You only have one so treasure the moments you have with her… Love the picture of her at the computer. 🙂

  2. Hello Rafael, Congrats on your amazing work. The first time I came across your name was a while back when you were a guest in Photoshop User TV. just recently had a chance to meet Scott Kelvy at the Arlington, TX Photoshop Workshop. You guys do awesome work and I am a great fan. My parents also imigrated here and I can identify with your story. They still work really hard and they helped my brother sister and my selft through school and here I am doing GIS Analysis and photography as a hobby (improving day by day on what my passion really is). I know that our parent made great sacrifices to provide to us a life they didn’t have and for that I am extremly thankful.
    Take Care and Keep up the awesome work. By the way I will be loading my Single Image HDR for Twitter Contest. It will be on my blog site (

  3. RC,

    I saw this photograph in your portfolio and I was like WOW!! A reallllly strong image…I love it!

    It makes me feel the connection of the past and future…if that makes any sense. (Your mother looking into the future??) A striking image.

    Nassau, Bahamas | Miami, Florida

  4. Michael Sheehan

    Love this image. especially the way her head really stands out against the background grey that’s like a halo, with her white face and black hair. Wonderful balance. Beautiful.

  5. A CRT monitor!…Your ma deserves an iPad now, you Scrooge!
    😉 just kidding, I really respect and appreciate your work RC, looking forward your next lessons on Kelbytraining!


  6. RC I lost my Mom in 2005 , I was not shooting then I wish She was here as I am shooting now with the best optics. Please tell me you made a 27×40 out of this already? If not I will and Hang it up on my wall. I love all mothers and to here her story and the love through it is awesome. I am not kidding about the image

  7. Christhopher Yow

    Rafael, having just read the above about your mom, this has made me see my life in a hole new way that I have not had it as bad as I was thinking I have it.and I need to take more time to talk with my mother.

    Your must be so proud of her, and this is one of the best photos I have ever see.

  8. Hi RC. You mentioned this story during the G+ conference so I wanted to find the photo. Powerful stuff.

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