"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Friday, October 16, 2015

aline smithson

Many years ago while attending a Santa Fe portfolio review, a lovely fellow participant noticed my name tag and said hello. She had seen my work in Shots Magazine and really liked it. We shared our portfolios with one another, had drinks and dinner and quickly became friends.

My friendship with Aline Smithson has deepened over time. She, practically unknown as a photographer that year in Santa Fe, has blossomed into quite the photo super star! You may know her blog, Lenscratch (if you don't, you should) and you've probably seen work from one or more of her series in various photo publications. Maybe you've shown her your work at a portfolio review (she sits on both sides of the review table these days), heard her lecture or taken a class from her. Recently, perhaps you've seen her book. Aline is a busy and talented woman. She's also incredibly supportive, generous and kind.

We traded prints early on in our friendship. I selected one from her series called "Arrangement in Green and Black: Portrait of the Photographer's Mother," her ode to Whistler's famous painting. I love this body of work, and it was the one that really defined Aline's arrival as a photographer (in her past life she was both painter and fashion editor.) Her mother, well into her 80's when she agreed to pose for this series, was in poor health but maintained a great sense of humor about it. Sadly, she didn't live long enough to see the completed set of images, but Aline has always said she's "up there enjoying her success."

Aline's "Spring Fever" series is another of my favorites. In it she photographed seven-year-old girls wearing hats from the 1950's (she loves a good garage sale). In Aline's own words:

"Juxtaposing hats traditionally worn by women half a century older with the visual of a child on the threshold of knowledge and sophistication allows us a glimpse into the future, and possibly a reflection of a face that wore a head full of flowers long ago.

Some believe that articles of clothing hold the essence of the original owner. It is my hope that we are not only looking at a contemporary face, but an echo of a person that once wore a hat covered in flowers and worn during a church service or a garden luncheon, when once upon a time, we celebrated Spring with fanfare and a hat."

In spite of the fact that Aline has so much on her plate these days, she continues to be a prolific art-maker. And now, 20 years worth of her work as a photographer has been compiled in a gorgeous book called "For Self & Others: Portraits as Autobiography." With a thoughtful introduction by Karen Sinsheimer (of blessed memory), essays by Aline and just over 100 beautifully reproduced images, the book is a welcome tribute to a smart, engaged, curious, witty, sensitive and poetic photographer. Among the 18 bodies of work represented, I still love her older black and white work (Aline remains a film devotee) that includes, among other things, images of her family and her environs.

Aline considers all her portraits a reflection of who she is and has created a visual narrative that defines exactly that. I think it's ultimately what most of us are trying to achieve in one way or another; she has succeeded with style and grace, and I congratulate her heartily. I'm glad she came up and said hello in Santa Fe; I truly value our friendship that has spanned these many years.

1 comment:

Frank Armstrong said...

I met Aline several years ago when she made a presentation at Flash Forward, Boston. I 110% with all you say about her. Rarely do you find someone that embodies talent and generosity. I have her book and it is indeed a joy.