Tina Modotti

"Fittingly, Tina Modotti died en route. Though she reveled in being of a place, a people, a profession, all proved slippery to her touch. No sooner did she plant one foot on firm ground than the earth eroded under the other, leaving her geographically and emotionally homeless. Acknowledging a "tragic conflict between life which continually changes and form which fixes it immutable," she responded by improvising, with all the grace she could muster, a series of remarkable lives." - from Shadows, Fire, Snow, The Life of Tina Modotti by Patricia Albers

Tina Modotti

Tina Modotti

This is a very beautiful book about one of those twentieth century lives that beggars belief. Modotti was an Italian emigré; a movie star; a founding modernist in Mexico; a Communist spy; friend to Frida Kahlo and Pablo Neruda; lover, colleague, and muse to Edward Weston and Diego Rivera. Her photographs are stark and sensual. Her story might have disappeared were it not for two trunks of letters and photographs belonging to her husband that were passed on to the author. 

Roses, 1924;  platinum print

Roses, 1924; platinum print

Telephone Wires, Mexico, 1925;  platinum print

Telephone Wires, Mexico, 1925; platinum print

Tina Modotti, Pandurang Khankhoje in his laboratory, Chapingo, Mexico (ca. 1928)

Tina Modotti, Pandurang Khankhoje in his laboratory, Chapingo, Mexico (ca. 1928)


Recently I collaborated with the Angel City Junior Derby on a themed group portrait. This was a sizable production as it involved getting 15 teens into wardrobe, hair, and makeup on a Saturday morning at 8 o'clock. Four makeup artists and two hair stylists worked for two hours to give the skaters the look chosen for the occasion, their individual takes on Keanu Reeve's hit-man John Wick. Everyone brought their very best and we were all happy with the finished image.

Angel City Junior Derby.jpg

Editing the picture was quick. The young women looked formidable and fierce. Then... the team grew by two players. Can we add two players to the existing photo? A professional retoucher told me she couldn't be certain what she would charge for the job until she had seen all of the elements. We shot the new players in the same location at the same time of day and sent the pictures to the retoucher for an estimate which came to $200. 

Two more skaters

Turnaround time was a quick three days. Time was of the essence as the picture was needed for printed programs. Here is the finished result which also included extending the pants to meet the skates on the far left skater.

Finished composite

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines a composite photograph as a photograph made by combining several distinct photographs either made one over another on the same plate or made on one print from a number of negatives. Digital photography and photoshop have made this process more precise and seamless.