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Eugene family dances into national photography project `America at Home'.

Byline: Lewis Taylor The Register-Guard

The dancers, in their traditional Mexican dresses, twirl in the driveway of their west Eugene home, creating bright swirls of color against the backdrop of a crisp blue sky.

The young woman in the foreground wears a confident smile on her face. Her 2-year-old brother stands strong behind her in a black "charro" cowboy suit. In the background looms their house, a sturdy two-story structure built by their father, Fernando Pelayo.

"It kind of shows our culture and how we live," says Pelayo, 39, who came to California from the Mexican state of Jalisco 13 years ago to work a construction job, and now lives in the Barger area of Eugene. "It shows how we're not forgetting about what we were. We bring who we are to this country."

The photograph, which was taken by Pulitzer Prize-winning Eugene photographer Brian Lanker, appears in the recently released coffee-table book "America at Home." As the title suggests, it shows ordinary Americans in the places they live, which include apartments, houses, a garage or two, a Dumpster and a "fairy trailer."

"The assignment was pretty open-ended," recalled Lanker, who decided to focus his lens on Hispanic culture. "I felt that it (would show) a pretty broad cross-section of ethnic America."

Eugene-Springfield is well represented in the book, which features, among other images, a portrait of furniture store manager/Holocaust slide show presenter Nathan Fendrich. That photo was also shot by Lanker. Former Register-Guard photographer Thomas Boyd contributed a photograph of the family of foster care activist Christy Obie-Barrett and Bill Barrett. The couple have 12 children, nine of whom are adopted.

Boyd and Lanker were a part of a team of 99 photographers across the country who went in search of memorable images of home. The project was overseen by Rick Smolan, the creative force behind "America 24/7" and other "day in the life" photography books.

Lanker discovered the Pelayo family at a publicity event for the Fiesta Latina festival. The three girls in the photograph are members of the Ballet Folklorico Alma de Mexico, a traditional Mexican dance troupe that regularly performs at the festival.

Irene Guzman, 14, the young woman with the bright smile, was happy to be a part of the project. Her sisters Araceli, 10, and Claudia, 4, are the other dancers in the colorful dresses, which are constructed of traditional fabric patterns representing the state of Jalisco.

The young boy in the charro suit - traditional garb for horse and bull riders - is her brother, Fernando Antonio Pelayo.

"While all the other members of the family are engaged in some wonderful movements, he seems to be pretty stationary," Lanker explained. "It's a great contrast."

Lanker says he was drawn to the Pelayo-Guzman family because so many members of the clan were involved in the same visually captivating activity. And he liked the fact that Fernando Pelayo built the family's immaculately kept home, which was completed in 2006.

The Pelayos have several copies of the book that features their portrait, including one that rests, appropriately enough, on the coffee table.

"It's a great book," Pelayo says. "It's got a lot of different (people). It's just interesting for (anyone) who appreciates how other people live."
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Title Annotation:Oregon Life
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 22, 2008
Words:540
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