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Randall Mena: Portraits of First Responders – Zip06.com

In Randall Mena’s desire to support the local community around New Haven he volunteers his professional photographic talents to create portraits of police officers and firefighters who risk their lives each day to save the lives of others.
Born in Costa Rica, Randall immigrated to the United States 16 years ago, at the age of 29, to be closer to his parents and a brother who had moved to New Haven years earlier. “I was the last person [of my family] to move here,” Randall says.
“My parents managed a bakery in Fairhaven, and I started working with them,” says Randall of his first work experience in the U.S., prior to his pursuit of the arts through the lens of his camera.
Six months later he used his computer engineering background to start a business fixing people’s computers. He then took local college courses online and in person. Once he developed his long-time interest in photography, he began a business capturing the enduring moments of weddings and other special events.
But Randall doesn’t just snap pictures of the moment for events like weddings. He meticulously crafts each photo to enhance the emotion of his subjects with the same kind of calculus and precision he used when repairing computers.
A wedding, in his vision, is more than an event, it is a story, and he applies what he calls “editorial control” to tell the story of each subject, like how a slant of late afternoon sunlight illuminates the corners of a wedding gown train from behind, while carried by a groomsman.
Randall believes “average cannot be considered acceptable,” when creating art through his photography, and his goal with each still life is to capture “creative, editorial story-telling photos that will retain a timeless quality that you will love 50 years from now,” he states.
“I’m not trying to be different; I’m just being myself,” Randall notes of his eye for portraiture—of groups as well as individuals—and capturing emotion and moments in time. In those striking portraits, Randall says he “captures the personality of the subject by using effective lighting, backdrops, and poses, both indoors and outdoors, to achieve the look of each photograph.
Randall’s love of people—and capturing their best moments in portraiture—has also prompted him to run workshops to help other photographers improve their work. “You can learn a lot on your own, whether through tutorials, taking online courses, or by good old-fashioned trial and error,” states Randall, “but getting up close and personal with a professional photographer as you shoot is a valuable educational experience that can help take your photography business to the next level.”
Randall says he liked photography since he was a child, “but I never had the opportunity to study photography,” before joining his family in Connecticut and getting settled in his new life in Connecticut.
In thanks to the community support Randall received during a dark page in his life a little over a decade ago, he has recently begun volunteering his photography talents to create human interest portraits of firefighters and police officers when they are hired, promoted, or retire.
“I was a victim of racial profiling…in East Haven back in 2009 and 2010,” Randall says of one of his motivators for coming up with the idea of volunteering to take gratis portrait photographs of first responders.
“People don’t know how deep [and hurtful] that [profiling incident] was. I want to give something to the community in a way that closes that one dark chapter in a good way,” says Randall. “I thought of the photographs of the police officers and firefighters because most of the time when they retire you don’t see a nice or recent picture of the person, or when a person gets promoted to another position, to create something nice for the community and the first responders.”
To add to that desire to give back, when Randall learned about Ken Engelman, of Branford, who was operating a Facebook group called “Volunteer #itswhatwedo,” he wanted to join forces and help the volunteerism cause.
Engelman’s philosophy of kind people in a community volunteering to help others because they are able to do so was attractive to Randall. And after thinking about the time, a decade earlier, when he did not feel so welcome in the local community, he knew that taking the portrait photos of police and fire professionals was one way he could give back and help build community by celebrating and honoring local first responder heroes.
“I can take a nice portrait [of police or firefighters] in their uniform for free and they can take it home as a digital file,” Randall says. And if the person wants a printed and framed portrait Randall can arrange for that too.
Now that professional photography keeps Randall happily busy and employed, he has less time for computer repair, “and people don’t have a lot of computers today,” he says, which is just as well, he notes, since laptops, iPads, and smartphones have replaced desktop computers for many of the people he used to help.
While Randall loves Connecticut and the towns of New Haven County, his heart is still connected to home.
“I have property a half-mile from the beach,” he says of his native Costa Rica, “but that’s gonna be family property for the future, for retirement,” he says.
For now, and for the foreseeable future, Randall makes East Haven his home with his wife, Erin, and their two sons, Giorgio age 6, and Mateo age 1.
“I’m very happy with the support others like Ken Engelman [of Branford] have given me,” says Randall. “Maybe other Latino leaders will realize they can do stuff by volunteering..so I would like to get them more involved in community work and volunteering.”
Randall can be reached by phone at 203-887-5243, by email at randall@tandallmena.com, or visit randallmena.com.



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