In 1992, while working on assignment for the Spanish-language magazine Más, photographer John Dyer captured a star on the rise. Fresh off the success of her breakthrough album Entre a Mi Mundo, 21-year-old singer Selena Quintanilla was poised to take her regional success in Texas and Northern Mexico to the next level. Dressed in her signature bustier, gold hoops, and black high-waisted pants, the Texan took to the red curtain backdrop, basking in the glow of a spotlight with the same magnetism she radiated on stage. In that moment, it became immediately clear to Dyer why people were drawn to her.
Just two years later, when Dyer was on assignment for Texas Monthly, Selena was a Grammy Award-winning artist who had shattered sales records for Tejano artists; her 1994 album, Amor Prohibido, reached quadruple platinum status. When Dyer met with Selena this time, at San Antonio’s Majestic Theatre, she carried a subdued energy with her and seemed visibly exhausted from constant touring.
Now, 25 years after her sudden death, a selection of photos from Selena’s shoots with Dyer are being shown publicly for the first time, as part of the McNay Art Museum’s “Selena Forever/Siempre Selena” exhibit. On view through July 5th, the photos were originally meant to be part of the museum’s current “Fashion Nirvana” exhibit, but curators decided to expand it into its own show once they saw the images.
Five photographs (as well as a digital slideshow) are exhibited inside the Pat and Tom Frost Octagon—an intimate part of the museum that feels almost like a chapel erected in the late singer’s honor. “When I walked in one day, I met a woman who told me she couldn’t even look at one of the photos anymore because it brought up too many emotions,” Dyer said. “There were people in tears the day it opened. There’s still so much emotion there all these years later, and I can’t explain that. Selena represents something very powerful to a lot of people.”
Dyer gave Texas Monthly a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it was like to work with the Queen of Tejano.