Opinion: Manuel ‘Memo’ Cavada was my artistic muse, my mentor and my dear friend

Lopez is a photographer, mobile notary, and member of the San Diego County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, who lives in National City.

Memo Cavada was a lot to a lot of different people, but for me he was my artistic muse, my mentor and a dear friend. I met Memo Cavada, or as I called him “Manny”, when I was in 10th grade. I went to his studio with a friend of mine to take pictures of his seniors, and I remember thinking, “Wow, he really takes his time and makes sure the photos look good. He wasn’t trying to rush the session. He wanted to make sure my friend was happy with the results. I had never seen this kind of attention to detail before in a photographer. My experience has been to see people rushing through their photo ops. I could also tell he was having fun doing it and he loved it. Every time Manny took pictures of someone he made sure they were having fun too. That attention to detail and making sure you were happy with your photos never changed. Many years later when my kids had their photoshoots with Manny he was just as professional and fun as the first day I met him.

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Over the years he has become not only my mentor but also a wonderful friend to me and my family. Sure, he was the family photographer for my family’s special events, but for our family he was more than a photographer, he was and always will be someone who loved his family, friends and community. I saw in him the characteristics of a person who only wanted to help others and see them succeed. He wanted you to be happy in everything you did. I always joked with him and told him I wanted to be like him when I grew up. But it’s true, he is someone that I will always admire and to whom I will always aspire.

Everyone Manny met were automatically his friends and he offered to help them in any way he could. I knew that every time I saw him I would be greeted with a smile and the biggest hug. I loved talking to him about travel and photography; these are the things we bonded the most to. We both enjoyed traveling and taking photos, especially in Oaxaca, Mexico. This is what we had most in common, our love for Oaxaca.

Manny knew how much I loved photography and he always encouraged me to continue. He always asked me: “Are you still shooting? Or replied with “Glad to hear you always shoot… never stop.” I can still hear his voice say it. From the day I met him, he has always had so much confidence in my photographic abilities. So much so that when he couldn’t attend an event to take pictures at Centro Cultural De La Raza, he called me in for him. I was always so nervous to take his place, but of course he was calm and smiled at me like only he could and said, “I know you can do it!” They already know you will be there.

Manny has always been so humble. He never spoke of his accomplishments, and he had a lot. I only discovered most of them during the celebration of his life. I’m proud to say that Guillermo Aranda and Salvador Barajas, the artists at Manny’s Memorial Wall, were kind enough to give me the opportunity to make a small contribution to his mural and paint part of the camera . It’s very special and symbolic for me because it sparked my love of photography. I will love him forever and I will miss him!

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