Alumni Profile - Capturing the Moments of the Valley's Latino Community

Thursday, April 28, 2022
José Muñoz taking photo of man in cowboy hat with lady (red sweater and scarf)
José Muñoz walking with a woman in Phoenix
A woman and man kneel before a roadside alter with flowers and candles
José Muñoz sitting on a fence (photo credit: Rick D'Elia) and image of him posing with rallyers

José Muñoz has dedicated his life to capturing the life and stories of Latino families in the Valley. His works runs the gamut of fun family and group photos to the deeper topics of political turmoil and personal tragedies.

At an early age, José would capture life’s moments through the Nikkormat camera lens his mother purchased for him. He loved to take photos of family and friends, sharing their stories and creating keepsakes of special moments in time.

After serving with the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War, José decided to take his “hobby” to the next level. He enrolled in photography classes at a nearby community college but soon felt discouraged.

“In the classes I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. There wasn’t support for the type of photos I wanted to take so I decided to transfer to Phoenix College (PC). I still remember my photography professor, John Mercer at PC. I liked his work and he taught me so much, including proper dark room technique. He took an interest in my work and encouraged me to pursue my art.” - José Muñoz

While at Phoenix College, José took photography classes and general education classes including psychology.  He was also active in sports, playing on the football and baseball teams. He also ran for the track team.

Reflecting on his athletic experiences, José realized that “Even today when I photograph athletic events I know what to take photos of and know exactly when to take the photo. I know where the action will be because I played the sport before and know what will happen next.”

He graduated in 1980 with a degree in Art Photography from Phoenix College. His education paired with his natural eye for taking a good photo, propelled José into a career in photography. In 1985, he (along with his wife, Jane Ellen Muñoz, started his own photography studio.

He took photos of families, graduations, and life events for the Latino community in the City of Phoenix. As technology changed, more and more photos were taken digitally. Eventually, very few people came into the studio for a photo session. The studio was then closed.

Undeterred, José took his skills into freelance photography on a full-time basis.  He has now worked with several Latino-focused media outlets in the Phoenix area including La Voz (The Arizona Republic's Spanish-language sister publication), La Latino Future, Prensa Hispana, ASU Magazine, and Cambio Magazine.

José, 69, has taken his work part time, but he doesn’t see a day when he will completely stop taking photos all together.

“I’ve recently started a new project photographing home alters (i.e. ofrendas) for people who have passed. I’m also photographing the Hispanic homeless population. I have this electric bike so I can go places that my car can’t go so I can get the right shot. I share these photos on social media and with local politicians to highlight the serious issues in the Valley.” - José Muñoz

He has a message for his fellow Phoenix College alumni and students who are interested in pursuing photography as more than a hobby.

“Stick to it. Don’t give up. I can tell you one thing – if you are taking photo classes it’s a good start but you need more. You should be good at getting right into the space of your subject until you get the right angle. You’ll feel it when you have the right image. You also need to be good at public relations and know your contacts at the newspapers and magazines. Be determined and show people your portfolio so they can see what you can do for them.” - José Muñoz