HARLINGEN – He snapped his first photograph with his very own camera when he was just a child.
“I was 10 years old and my dad bought it for me as a birthday present because I would always borrow my uncle’s camera whenever I took pictures,” said Ivan Estrada.
It was a 35mm Fuji and the first three pictures he took with it were of his mother and father.
Since then, he found his passion for sharing stories through photographs.
The first time Ivan took pictures in Harlingen was at the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings baseball games many years ago.
Aside from photographing the players, he decided to motivate the public by taking photos of them with the mascot.
That’s how everything got started.
“People liked them and I started to put them on Facebook,” said Estrada. “People would ask me for the pictures all the time.”
The baseball players would also ask him to photograph them for promotional purposes.
“That year, 2014, six of them (players) went to the major leagues … the Texas Rangers, San Francisco, and Pittsburgh,” he said.
“I have photos of them that I took throwing the ball, catching the ball, sliding into home base.”
That same year, he met Basilio “Chino” Sanchez who was a Harlingen City Commissioner at the time. Sanchez invited Estrada to take photos at a recognition event at city hall.
Sanchez introduced him to other political figures which involved him in other city, county and political events.
He began to attend more and more political and city events in the area, at the same time providing his services for free.
He says it doesn’t always go as planned when he shows up to political events.
There were times when he was turned away by candidates because he covered their competitor’s election event, but it hasn’t deterred him.
He has also provided free photo opportunities to Los Indios, Primera, Combes, Santa Rosa, Los Fresnos, Rio Hondo and San Benito when they host community events.
“In Los Indios, there was a Christmas event that got extended for an additional hour because there were so many children taking pictures with Santa Claus in a helicopter,” said Estrada.
He stayed the extra hour to take pictures of the children and Santa.
“I didn’t want any of the children to not have the opportunity to take their picture,” he said.
I have a regular job, but this is my favorite hobby.
The motive behind him offering his services for free is simple he says. It’s his way of giving back.
“I didn’t realize there would be such an acceptance of what I do in such a short time,” he said.
“It’s the emotion that people feel with the work I do, when they see the photographs” he said. “That’s what I love, the satisfaction of the people.”
He worked for TV Azteca in Mexico in the marketing department taking pictures of products in ways that would have a greater appeal to the public.
“I do the same thing when I take pictures,” said Estrada. “I quickly capture the photos, I never stand in one place so that I can capture every detail.”
He loves taking photos and says that depending on how things continue, his future will be defined.
“I think there will come a time when I will dedicate all my time to photography,” he said. “I think maybe by 2018-2019 I will dedicate myself to only taking photos as a full-time job.”
He recently received a Certificate of Recognition from the Harlingen Police Department at their awards banquet for taking photos and helping raise awareness of the work the department does in the community with events such as Run with the Heroes RGV 5k Run/Walk, Shop With A Cop, and other outreach in the past two years.
Estrada says the Certificate of Recognition symbolizes the consistent work he does in the community without profiting personally from it.
“To me it’s my legacy,” he said.
He said his daughter, Magali, asked him why he received the award when he returned home that night.
“Because people who do things for others at one time or another are eventually acknowledged,” he told her.
He says he doesn’t expect anything in return for the work he does.
“If it’s not for me, then it’s for someone else and that someone else might get great benefit from it,” he said.
“That’s what is important to me, the legacy you leave behind,” he added. “Things only happen once and you will never have that same opportunity to take those photos again.”