This latest photography project is based on the photographs of Frida Kahlo, honoring her legacy as well as exploring one’s own identity through her inspiration. I chose to collaborate with Whitney (la-negra-barbuda) as my model on this, and they truly brought the spirit of this project to life.
Words of Whitney (the model):
I felt honored when Yvonne wanted to collaborate with me because I loved “Man or Woman?”, her photo project about her identity and thoughts on gender. We brainstormed about possible topics and she suggested a Frida-themed shoot. I was a bit apprehensive because many photography projects that I’ve seen based on Frida have focused on unibrows, flower crowns, and red lipstick, almost fetishizing the common images of Frida and Mexican mestiza identity. As a fan of Frida, I wanted to do the project, but focus more on recreating photography of her, not her paintings. My own life has many threads that are present in Frida’s life also: queerness, self-trained artistry, reproductive issues, mixed heritage, a spinal injury from a traffic accident, and lastly, facial hair that is not considered popular for a person read as a woman. After considering Frida’s life and self-expression, it only seemed right to work on a Frida-themed project.
Since I’m not Mexican, I did not want to appropriate aspects of Mexican culture through Frida, but find ways to express my own Afrolatinidad, more specifically Afroboricua identity, using Frida as a template. The flowers Yvonne used to style my hair are hibiscuses in my favorite color, a nod to the national flower of Puerto Rico: La Maga. In one photo, I’m holding a figure of the Orisha Eleggua as a display of my own spiritual legacy of Lukumi, a belief practiced throughout the Americas which is based in the Caribbean on West African religions. The jewelry and clothing are all my own and like Frida’s extensive wardrobe my taste in clothing has been influenced by the variety in the mezcla of my own cultural heritage.
To see the full collection, please go to the photoset on Flickr.
To see the inspiration photos of Frida Kahlo herself, please go to this Pinterest collection.
[Note: “Obra” in Spanish is the word for a piece of artwork, a play, work (labor), or a written deed.]