Bits and Pieces of Frida

As someone who adored the colorful, poignant movie “Frida” (and Salma Hayek’s saucy portrayal of the famous Mexican painter) and who could just spend hours poring over vintage photographs, I’m interested in the exhibit which opened last night at Artisphere in Arlington. Called “Frida Kahlo: Her Photos,” it’s less a showing of artwork than a historical collection of photographs, curated by Mexican photographer Pablo Ortiz Monasterio.  He selected 240 images from Frida’s personal collection of over 6,500 (which had been sealed away for more than 50 years following her death in 1954.) This is the first showing in the United States; the permanent collection is at the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico.

Frida in 1930

Frida is known for her tumultuous life as much as for her powerful self portraits. Her adulthood was  filled with physical and emotional pain, from accidents, surgeries, miscarriages and her chronically unfaithful husband (famous Mexican painter Diego Rivera).  She also had her own string of flings with other cultural icons of the era. It was a life fit for the movies. But a show like this offers us the unique gift of the camera: a personal, up close view into the every day reality of a luminescent person long gone.

A few more samples from the show:

Bedridden after an accident in her teens, Frida began doing art as a way to pass the time.


Diego Rivera in 1940. Frida's father referred to their union as that between an "elephant and a dove"

Frida paints her father, himself a successful photographer (who did a lot of self portraits.)


Love this 1938 photo for how much it resembles her self portraits (see below)


Sleeping Soldiers

Last spring, British photojournalist Tim Hetherington was killed at age 40 while covering the conflict in Libya.  A posthumous exhibit of his work in Afghanistan, “Sleeping Soldiers” is now up at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in DC.

I find Tim’s work very interesting for a couple of reasons. While he was no stranger to photographing in combat zones, he was also interested in showing us another side to the lives of the men. He stayed with a platoon of soldiers in Afghanistan for months, gaining their trust to the point where he could make images of them as they slept, appearing quiet and vulnerable, (yet still a bit on edge).

There are also images from his 2010 book Infidel, showing the soldiers during leisure time.

Sterling Jones practices his golf swing in Kunar Province, Afghanistan

I also find Tim interesting and inspiring because of his embrace of modes of documenting beyond the camera. He directed and produced films (Restrepo was nominated for an Academy Award), did writing and reporting, and designed everything from multi-screen installations to portable device downloads. The “Sleeping Soldiers” portion of the exhibit up at the Corcoran is actually a video installation of the sleeping men layered with sounds and scenes of war, which add psychological components for the viewer to consider.

It’s easy for us to forget as we scan the the oft-daily scene of carnage on the front page of the paper, that someone was in the middle of the chaos with the dedication and presence of mind to frame and capture a photograph, allowing the rest of the world to see instantly what is happening.  A salute to Tim Hetherington and the other journalists who’ve lost their lives and to those still out there on the front lines.

World Press Photo of the Year 2007 by Tim Hetherington shows an exhausted soldier in Afghanistan.




Big Cats: Vanishing Icons @ National Geographic

Big cats + world class photographers; personally, I’m not sure what could be better. Besides maybe romping with a lion cub…. hmmm I don’t think the National Zoo allows that.

photo by Beverly Joubert

If you’re a Geographic subscriber, you’ll remember the recent issue which focused on the plight of the world’s big cats who are almost all endangered. Now you can see beautiful photos of eight of these endangered species (lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards, jaguars, snow jaguars, snow leopards, clouded leopards, and mountain lions) at National Geographic Headquarters which we are lucky enough to have right here in DC. Specifically, 1145 17st st NW. The show is free and up through April 8.

National Geographic Headquarters

While you’re there you might also look into any upcoming seminars by Natl Geo. photographers. When I was a photo student I took a few of these in, including a talk by Steve McCurry, who took the famous “Afghan girl” photo. They’re usually not free but they are worth paying for…

The Geographic is an institution that understands the power of photography. I hope the article and exhibit on the big cats brings awareness and motivation to help save these creatures, who are vital to the survival of their ecosystems and all around amazing creatures to share this planet with.

Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage

Yay, a new Annie Leibovitz show in DC! Her exhibit “Pilgrimage” has gone on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and will be up through May 20.

Most people have seen a Leibovitz photograph whether they realize it or not – she’s most well known for her  highly produced, powerful portraits of movie stars, musicians and politicians. This new body of work diverges in that it there are no people present in the photos, yet she still seems to be making portraits. Among the images are photographs of the gloves of Abraham Lincoln, Ansel Adams’ darkroom and Elvis Presley’s motorcycle.

A target used by sharpshooter Annie Oakley, photographed by Annie Leibovitz

Hope to make this one, Leibovitz is a favorite of mine.  If anyone has seen the show, please leave your thoughts in the comments!