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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Just like magic// Cristina Kahlo’s journey through magic of photography

From Kahlo’s photo series “Marco Polo is metaphor” the picture “Wonders of this earth” depicts a flower vase. Photo courtesy Cristina Kahlo
From Kahlo’s photo series “Marco Polo is metaphor” the picture “Wonders of this earth” depicts a flower vase.
Photo courtesy Cristina Kahlo

managing editor

From her home in Mexico, there in her room sat large shelves of paint brushes in small cups, a picture, binders and Cristina Kahlo – photographer, traveler and artist. 

She has a legacy following her being the great niece of Frida Kahlo, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, but Cristina Kahlo has made a name for herself building her career around her passion for photography. 

She said that there were expectations of her having come from the Kahlo family, but that she knew she had to learn to live with that because she wanted to live authentically as herself.

“For me, it’s important to keep being the way I am, to have my own personality and my own interests and activities as a photographer,” she said. “I know that people have some expectations, sometimes they figure that when I will arrive, I will arrive dressed like Frida Kahlo, for example, which is not my style in any way.”

South Campus art history and art appreciation instructor Carlos Rovelo is good friends with Kahlo. In the past he has worked with her, been invited to events and even to her home to celebrate his birthday. He described her as knowledgeable, inviting, proud of her heritage and complex.

For Kahlo, her photography journey started with her father’s dark room.

“The first time I came into a darkroom, it was with my father,” she said. “I think I was about 10, 11 years old or something like that and for me, that was like magic.”

She said she remembers being young and watching her father develop prints or family photos in the dark room and she saw the process as magic.

“I remember this idea that I had that when I grew up, I want to be a magician as my father is,” she said. “Not a photographer, you know, a magician, because that was like magic. How you put up a white paper into the developer, and then the image appears.”

When her father passed away two or so years after, she said she kept her fascination with photography and received some lessons on developing film from the brother of her friend.

At 16, she pursued photography at the only photography school in Mexico City at the time.

“It was around the block of my house so that was perfect for me, and later, I went to study in Spain, in Madrid to study photography,” she said. “But I think that I’m very lucky because I never have had any question in my mind about what I want to do as a career, I was always clear that I wanted to do photography.”

When she started photography, she said she began with analog photography. Now, she still likes to use a dark room and analog photography mixed with other techniques.

 “In my beginnings as a photographer I used to work in a darkroom, but I still do. Now I work with different techniques,” she said. “But I keep doing analog photography, as well as techniques like cyanotype, or platinum palladium prints. But at the same time, I work with digital photography, so I use anything that helps me to do an image.” 

She said her work is divided and that she doesn’t like to limit herself. One half is personal to her, and it is her way of telling a story through photos by imagining a scene, creating it and taking photos of it. The other half is documentary photography.

“This last month I have been in a place called Tenejapa in Chiapas and I was documenting a carnival in that place, which was incredible. It was amazing,” she said. “So I do both kinds of photography. One is much more personal, you know, it’s like my personal dreams and images that came out of my mind, and then I create them. But at the same time I like to document and to have these documents about what’s happening around.”

One photo series she particularly enjoys is her “Marco Polo is metaphor” series of images because for her, it’s a metaphor for her story of travel. 

“Marco Polo is for me a metaphor of my own movement in this world all the time and the things that you discover in your travels and also the way you move into the world and into my life itself,” she said.

Defining Kahlo can get lost in translation, Rovelo said, because she has such an influence and connection with the people she meets, the places she goes and the way she teaches.

“She’s a private woman, and complex. You have to love it to understand, and love her,” he said. 

He recalled teaching a zoom class from Mexico City, and didn’t tell his students that Kahlo would be there with him at her house.

 “After the class, obviously, students were like, ‘wow!’” he said.

Kahlo has three pieces of advice for being a photographer. The first was finding inspiration wherever possible.

“I will say that you have to get inspiration from everywhere, and that means that you have to read a lot, that you have to hear music, that you have to go to the movies, you have to see nature. Everything can become a source of inspiration,” she said.

The second piece of advice she has is to save the ideas that come.

“Everything that comes to your mind as an idea of creation, maybe right now you cannot do it. But in a few months, you will have the time or the material to do it. So write them and you will see that they will grow up.”

Her third piece of advice is staying consistent with work and being responsible with time.

“You go to your studio, and you start working every day the number of hours that is okay for you. But every day, if you leave spaces without creating and without working, then it’s more difficult to take the line again,” she said.

Kahlo said it’s important to her that people feel their own feelings come through in her photography and how they relate to it personally.

“For example, if I have an exhibition, and you go to see my exhibition you will feel things according to the way you feel,” she said.

She said her view on art in general is that it helps you understand what your feelings are, whether that be images, painting, sculpture or music. When she is in an exhibition, she said she notices how people come to her with their interpretations of the photos.

“Sometimes when I have an exhibition, for example, people come to me and tell me, ‘I love this photograph, because for me, it’s like this and that,’ and maybe it’s something that I didn’t think at all,” she said. “That is the feeling of the person who looks at that image.”

As Cristina continues on, she says there is an importance in sharing her family’s life and what it means to her.

“People are curious to know what happened to the family after Frida,” she said. “Who we are, what we do, and so I think it’s important to make these kind of lectures so that they can know what the family is about these days.”

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