FRIDA KAHLO: PORTRAITS OF AN ICON examines the great Mexican artist through the lens of the most renowned photographers of the twentieth century.
The images in this volume span Kahlo’s lifetime, beginning with a photograph of the self-possessed chubby four-year-old with her fistful of wilting roses and ending forty-two years later with the image of an emaciated, wasted figure on her deathbed dressed in Pre-Columbian finery.
In addition to meticulously documenting the circumstances of the photographic sessions, Margaret Hooks’ text includes detailed information on the photographers who made these extraordinary portraits, and provides profound insight into Frida Kahlo’s manipulation of the camera to conceal what she preferred to hide and reveal the persona she wanted to project.
Bloomsbury PLC, London, 2002, 152 pps., w/ill., hardcover. ISBN: 0747566836.
Spanish paperback edition
Offers what is perhaps the most exciting Kahlo book since Bulfinch’s Frida Kahlo in 2001 … Hooks provides two essays to accompany the works. The first highlights the importance of photography in Kahlo’s life … and her art, while the second complements the photographs themselves, offering an extended and more detailed history of each. A stunning and unique addition to Kahlo and general art collections alike.
– Library Journal
This selection of superb gelatin silver prints constructs a narrative, from the first portrait in the book… to the last. The photographs all show her carefully crafted self-image, and are mesmerising works of enduring quality. The excellent text is by Margaret Hooks, an authority on Latin-American photography and the Mexican artistic milieu of the 1920s and ’30s.
– Kirkus Review
The Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, was born in 1907. This date did not appeal to her however, so she decided on another one. She chose instead 1910, the year that marks the beginning of the Mexican Revolution and of a decades-long process by which the country reinvented itself in its search for a new identity. As Frida’s life traversed these tumultuous years it paralleled this process as she reinvented herself again and again. In today’s era of fragmenting identities, it is the ease with which Frida took on these new guises that account for a large part of her appeal to millions and to the creation of the icon she has become.
Crucial to the invention of this icon, an extraordinary work of art it itself, was Frida’s manipulation and understanding of the camera… Photography was pervasive in Frida’s life, particularly in her formative years. She was born into a family of two generations of photographers. Her paternal grandfather, Jakob Heinrich Kahlo, a Hungarian Jew, dealt in photographic supplies while her maternal grandfather, Antonio Calderón, a Mexican of indigenous descent, was a successful, professional photographer with a studio in the city of Oaxaca.
Photo by Nickolas Muray
Born in Baden-Baden, Germany, Guillermo Kahlo arrived in Mexico in 1891 when he was nineteen. During the first decade of the twentieth century he was a very successful photographer, primarily as a result of the commissions he received from the government of the dictator Porfirio Díaz to record architectural monuments for a series of photographic albums to be published in celebration of the centenary of Mexico’s independence in 1910. For many years, he was considered the major photographer of Mexico’s architectural heritage…He was also an accomplished, though somewhat reluctant, portrait photographer. His preferred subjects were members of his own family, and he made numerous formal portraits of them.
From an early age Frida became familiar with the camera, and at ease in front of it, as photographs of her while she was still a toddler indicate. In fact, her father really wanted her to follow in his footsteps and become a photographer. By the time she was an adolescent, she was not only very accomplished at posing for the camera in order to project the image she desired, but knew how to operate it as well. She often accompanied her father, who suffered from epileptic seizures, on his photographic assignments around Mexico City, primarily to protect him and his weighty German-made cameras when he collapsed. Being present as he composed his images would provide her with important instruction in composition, of which he was a master, as well as other photographic skills.
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