Category Archives: portrait

The Frida Kahlo Tide

Can you guess who this is meant to suggest, just by looking at the picture?

Photo by Ahn Jooyoun for Sera Park

Photo by Ahn Jooyoun for Sera Park

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The Afghan Girl and what does photoshop – and the Impressionists – have to do with it?

national-geographic-100-best-pictures-coverYou already know this photo – it is the legendary portrait titled “Afghan Girl” that appeared on the cover of National Geographic in 1985 and then went on to become one of the most iconic pictures of all times. No wonder: the resolute gaze of the girl, in such dire circumstances, the unusual color of her eyes are indeed striking. What is also impactful but less  consciously recognizable is the color contrast of the saturated green and red that appeal subconsciously. And if you are a photography enthusiast, you also know the name of the photographer, Steve McCurry, popularly famous for shooting the last roll of Kodachrome ever produced, too. He was given that honor by Kodak because that film, noted for its exceptional saturated colors, was his signature film.  And you perhaps know that his signature style was striking human figures (most often shot in third-world countries) in traditional environments in saturated colors. Continue reading

Alec Soth and the issue of social class

Alec Soth at UTA, in the shadow of his presentation. On the screen: a note with the dreams of his subjects

Alec Soth at UTA, in the shadow of his presentation. On the screen: a note with the dreams of his subjects

 

Last night, UTArlington and Arlington Camera hosted a discussion of the noted documentary photographer (and Magnum member) Alec Soth with the curator who gave him the first big push of public recognition, Anne Tucker of the Museum of Fine Art, Houston. These public conversations are always useful. It’s true that most probably the information they reveal can be easily found elsewhere. But there are always revelations that happen only in a face-to-face setting.

That’s the reason I used this particular image as an illustration for my post: Alec in the shadow and, on the screen, a note scribbled with the personal dreams of the people he has photographed. It is an approach he uses to get closer to his subjects and allow them to show something of themselves and make it visible in the portrait.

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The family pictures inheritance

My grandfather in 1940. Photograph by Kiro of Smardan

This is a portrait of my grandfather, taken while he was doing his military service in 1940 Bulgaria (not part of the Axis yet). I discovered it last summer while perusing the stack of family photos at my parents’ house.

And it was one of the delights of my summer. I saw, in this picture, something in him I had not known but was so excited to discover it.  I saw how he felt in that particular moment of his life and some truths he never told me; things I would’ve discussed with him if only he were around today.  This picture gave me back a great piece of my own personal puzzle that I didn’t know existed but am so glad I found.

So, what could I do with this treasure? I plundered it from my parents’ collection without telling them, or my sister. My only justification was that it was just temporary and I would scan it and print it in large format and give them copies. Continue reading

Frida Kahlo: Her Photos

Book cover of Frida Kahlo: Her Photos. The cover image is of Frida at age 20, taken by her father

If perusing someone’s personal library is a way to understand their inner world, browsing the photo archive of one of 20th century’s most important artistic figures is a bonanza for understanding the visual world from which their art came. Surprisingly enough, we didn’t have access privileges to Frida Kahlo’s visual archive until recently. The book Frida Kahlo: Her Photos  shows it for the first time. Divided in several sections (“Mother”, “Father”, “Casa Azul”, “The Broken Body”, “Political Action”, etc), it encompasses family pictures, photographs taken of her, by her, given to her. For someone who so carefully crafted her image in so many ways, who made herself into a character of a larger story that is only partially contained in her art, the archive is an indispensable tool for understanding Frida as a work of art herself. Continue reading

Resolana Music Festival

Resolana is a community-based nonprofit organization working to educate and empower incarcerated women  in the Dallas County Jail so that they spend their time in custody productively, building a foundation for change and preparing for their return to society.

Resolana will hold its second annual Westside Music Festival to share its effort with the community and to raise funds to continue its work. Besides great music, of course, the festival will feature creative activities that are a staple of its programming for the women in jail: yoga, doll making, art and many others. There will be a silent auction as well. Continue reading

Tips for great portraits

Breaking all "rules for great portraits", this is one of my favorite pictures from the Third Eye Workshop, done by a 15-year old Roma participant

Blogs with photo tips on taking great portraits really annoy me. And every informational photography website has them, especially those dedicated to selling cameras and photographic gear. It’s clear that their canned advice is mostly about marketing. Even if they are not selling anything directly through those tips, they steer your photographic thinking in the direction of technicalities and gear instead of developing your vision as a photographer. And they help perpetuate clichés.

Does that mean that I don’t read them? I often do. Impulsively – out of curiosity to see if there is something new or unexpected there – but I don’t find anything revealing, every time. And the checklist form in which these tips are doled out is just as useful as a hypotetical checklist of “tips for great cooking” could be, starting with a recommendation to saute some onion. Well, great cuisine is not about making sure you start with onion. Continue reading