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Posts Tagged ‘Frida Kahlo photographs’

“Portrait of My Father,” (1951), Mexican artist Frida Kahlo shows us her photographer father Guillermo Kahlo with the tool of his trade – a camera.

From an early age, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) identified with her German-born father, Guillermo Kahlo, a portrait photographer. In her diary, she wrote (in Spanish):

“My childhood was marvelous because, although my father was a sick man [ he had epilepsy], he was an immense example to me of tenderness, of work (photographer and also painter)….”

Frida Kahlo as photographed by her father, Guillermo Kahlo (1872-1941) in 1926 at about age 19. This was taken after Frida's horrific bus accident.

Guillermo Kahlo taught young Frida how to use a camera and how to develop, retouch, and color photographs. He adored Frida and photographed her often. Perhaps this is when Frida developed her obsession for self-portraiture.

Frida Kahlo (l) at about age 19 with her family (c. 1927)

Definitely, by this time, Frida Kahlo had discovered how to seduce the camera. In this 1927 (perhaps 1924?) family photo, Frida appears androgynous, flouting convention by wearing a man’s suit and slicking back her hair. She was quite the rebel. Meanwhile, her sisters and mother pose demurely nearby in period flapper attire. Frida, however, has adopted a jaunty pose and an expression that says:

“Don’t look at them. Look at me!”

We can’t help staring at her.  At 19 she is already an exotic creature. Thus began Frida Kahlo’s long and celebrated career of using personal dress as theatre.

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Frida Kahlo sits on a white bench, wearing traditional Mexican clothing, in her heavily ornamented and embroidered signature look. Photographed in 1939 in New York by her friend and lover, Nickolas Muray.

Frida Kahlo, New York, 1939, photo by Nicholas Muray. She sits on a white bench, wearing traditional Mexican clothes in the heavily ornamented and embroidered style that became her signature.

“Frida was often heard to say, ‘I look like a lot of people and a few things,’ as if everything that made up her personal appearance was a matter of chance. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Dressing each day was an almost ceremonial affair during which she would try innumerable combinations of blouses and skirts. Her clothes were always immaculately clean and freshly ironed; she was meticulous about the appearance of her pleated petticoats, pure white and starched. She wore native Mexican costumes long after her sophisticated friends had given up this nationalistic gesture, in part for the long skirts that hid her thin leg [from childhood polio] and orthopedic shoe [from a bus accident]….

Frida selected her jewelry each day with equal care, especially the rings she wore on the fingers of both hands. She meticulously applied her make-up and painted her fingernails, sometimes purple, green, or orange….Only a little over 5′ 2″ tall, she seemed taller bcause of the heightening effect of her long skirts, accentuated even more by her elegantly long neck and her upswept hairdo with bows and flowers arranged on top of her head. Her olive skin was covered with a light fuzz; her upper lip had a pronounced moustache, which she made obvious in her self-portraits. The heavy dark eyebrows that grew together across her forehead she turned into a trademark….

When she was finally finished dressing, she looked “like a princess, like an empress’….Scrupulously clean and heavily perfumed…” (1)

Frida Kahlo smoking,  photograph by her friend and lover Nickolas Muray, ca. 1940

Frida Kahlo smoking, photo by her friend and lover, Nickolas Muray, ca. 1940

Frida was a heavy smoker and is often photographed holding a lit, unfiltered cigarette. She seldom smiled for the camera – with good reason. The few photos that have caught her laughing reveal blackened teeth.

(1) Zamora, Martha. Frida Kahlo: The Brush of Anguish. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1990.

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