VACAVILLE, Calif. — Amateur photographer Cindy Mendez encouraged her son and other stone-faced members of the Vaca Peña Crew to “make funny faces” and “smile for the camera” during their after-show crew photo, according to witnesses.
“They just looked so serious. They need to lighten up a bit,” said Mendez, a dental hygienist by trade. “They’re 17 years old and they look like a bunch of inmates. I thought it might be fun to do like a Charlie’s Angels thing, but none of them knew what that meant.”
Drawing on a decades-long tradition of firm and unforgiving crew pics, the Vaca Peña Crew took offense to Mendez’s art direction.
“I’ll stay down for my crew until I die, so these photos are no laughing matter. There is nothing silly about them,” said Justin Mendez, an aspiring tattoo artist and son of the photographer. “You know who smiles? The drama club. Do we look like actors? Do we look like we’re pretending? This is our life, and it’s real. Our crew photos need to reflect that we’re hard as nails and we’re going to be boys forever.”
Noted hardcore photographer Wes “The Chaplain” Chapman was surprised someone would request a silly option for a post-show crew photo.
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“I just don’t know what this lady is thinking,” said Chapman. “These kids put their lives on the line in the pit, showing support and watching each other’s backs. The ceremonial crew photo is no place for smiles. You take a knee, cross your arms, and throw a punch at the camera with your eyes.”
Mendez admitted she jumps at any chance to apply her camera skills, learned at the local community center, to real-life situations.
“I see all these cute wedding photos on Pinterest and I think to myself, ‘I could do that…’ But it’s much harder to get people to smile than you think — especially a 17-year-old boy who listens to all that screamy music,” said Mendez. “I just wish they would loosen up a bit. The best photos are always the goofy ones.”
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