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)….”
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.
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.