73° San Marcos
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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Local photo documentarian finds his passion through his muse, San Marcos

Marisa Nunez
Local photo documentarian, Christopher Paul Cardoza posing in front of his work, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023 at Jo’s Cafe.

Walking up and down through town, a local photo documentarian named Christopher Paul Cardoza has made the community of San Marcos his forever home. With his signature round sunglasses and a camera in hand, everywhere he goes he is bound to run into someone he knows or someone who recognizes his photography.

“Whether it was a movie premiere, whether it was a music show or any sort of relevant event in town that I started going to I also started noticing the emergence of a man at all these events taking pictures and videos,” Thayer Cranor, Texas State alumnus, said. “This mystical mustache man with the shades, long hair, this was Christopher Paul Cardoza and I was instantly enamored… I knew instantly that I had to get to know this guy. It has been this point of such reverence to me to know his craft and know the way he’s touched the lives of the people of San Marcos.”

For over ten years, Cardoza has constantly documented events, community members and the little things that make up the heart of San Marcos, using its friendly community as a muse to his lens.

Originally from California, Cardoza always had a love for photography, but after getting married and starting a family, Cardoza became a contractor to support his family.

Later, Cardoza got a divorce and was unhappy with his career. As finding work in California became difficult, a friend of Cardoza offered him a six-month job in San Marcos to help him get back on his feet. Cardoza came down in 2012 and hasn’t left since.

“I came here and I fell in love,” Cardoza said. “I fell in love with the river, I fell in love [with] the community. It was kind of like never-neverland. [San Marcos has] a combination of young folks, middle-aged folks and old folks all coming together. I got really engulfed and fell in love with the music scene.”

During his time in San Marcos out of boredom, Cardoza purchased a camera after not having picked one up in years. At a local music show, he began taking photos when someone asked him if he would share his work with him. The next day, he was offered a job.

“I took a couple of pictures of the show and some guy noticed and asked me to have some,” Cardoza said. “He came back, they hired me and next thing I knew I was hanging out every weekend taking pictures of music…six months into that job, I went home, I packed up and came back… It rejuvenated me, I felt alive.”

Cardoza now has made photography his career. He regularly gets jobs for his work and has his own studio in Martindale, Texas. After discovering how important his photography became for multiple community members, Cardoza started his biggest passion project which is to photograph every person in San Marcos.

Out of 70,000 community members, Cardoza has already captured 2,500 photos in four years. In 2021, he put on a showcase called “Moments in Time” where his portraits of community members were displayed in the Hays County Courthouse courtyard, in Kissing Alley and in the Price Center garden. This fall, Cardoza hopes to put on the same showcase with more areas filled with his portraits around the square. This time it will be called “The Martian Chronicles.”

County Judge Ruben Becerra discovered Cardoza’s work online and was fascinated by his ability to capture raw and relatable photos. Becerra and the Hays County office were happy to display his work and will gladly do so again.

“He brings a, ‘Hey I am you’, perspective to his photography through his lens that I relate to,” Becerra said. “He’s a bona fide gem and the most singular word I could use effortlessly would be relatable.”

Cardoza leaves his lens off his camera to capture several pictures throughout the day as a passion and not strictly for money. Although photography is how he makes his money, he plans to continue to take photos throughout his day no matter what. He’s helped those who can’t afford his photography by providing his skills through affordable shoots and his special eye through sharing photos on his Instagram.

Earlier this year, Cardoza was reminded of how important he was to the community. In April while he was at a photography job in Austin, all of Cardoza’s equipment was stolen from his car. Beginning to believe that his career was over, community members proved him wrong after starting a GoFundMe that raised over $12,000 for his cause.

“That incident reminded me of whatever I do, I’m not aware of what I do, but I’m going to continue doing it. I still post the community chronically of what’s happening and what’s going on, unwittingly, [that’s what] I’ve been falling into,” Cardoza said.

Some of Cardoza’s work can be seen at Jo’s Cafe during August. For over a decade, Elizabeth Rios, owner of Jo’s Cafe, has known Cardoza and has featured his photography in the local cafe before.

“He’s been doing this for many years,” Rios said. “He’s had a lot of characters and a lot of different photography and so he’s always welcome to show at my shop anytime… He really captures the characters really well, so to see other people come in and recognize them or sometimes they come in they recognize themselves, it’s kind of interesting to see how people react to his art.”

Rios has watched Cardoza’s work progress over the years and admired his ability to capture moments in time. She says his work is always welcome to be displayed at Jo’s Cafe.

“God, he has so much work,” Rios said. “He’s got that camera thing down, he can capture life through a lens. I’m really so proud of him too, he’s a wonderful person.”

To keep up with Cardoza’s work, follow him on Instagram @cpaulphotography.

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