Peter A. Juley and Son, photographic firm
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, San Francisco, 1931
The sculptor Ralph Stackpole did everything in his power to ensure that Diego Rivera created murals in San Francisco. We're fortunate to have three murals: one is at the City Club, which is connected to the Pacific Stock Exchange building, one is at the San Francisco Art Institute, and one is at San Francisco City College. Ralph and his French wife Ginette also opened their home to Frida and Diego, which is seen in the photograph above.
From the train station, Ralph and Ginette drove Frida and Diego to their flat. Arriving at the doorstep, the building, constructed from the hull of a schooner moored in 1849, did not look tall and imposing; however, when the door was opened, the fatigued couple glimpsed a long flight of dark stairs that lay before them. Once the trek to the top was complete, they continued down an even longer corridor; creaking sounds accompanied the rhythm of footsteps. Finally, silence. A wide door with a shiny new lock was opened and Frida stepped into her new home for the next six months.
In the living room, there was a small old brick fireplace with one of Ralph’s sculptural reliefs of a reclining female nude over it. A clutter of objects covered the mantle such as candleholders, a covered jar, flowers in a vase, and two ceramic pots. This became the backdrop for the Peter A. Juley and Son photo that was reproduced in a Vanity Fair article on Diego. It makes sense then that the photographer made Diego the dominant figure. His height and weight contrast to Frida's petite seated body. Yet, I am drawn to Frida's facial expression. It's much more complex than Diego's. Her eyes have a depth that pull me in. I want to know what she's thinking. I can imagine having a fascinating conversation with her. Diego, on the other hand, appears uncomfortable with a slight smile that seems put on for the camera. Just look at his hand resting on Frida's shoulder. It's obviously posed.
It makes sense that Frida would be more photogenic than her husband because, not only was she beautiful, but she grew up being photographed. Her father was a professional photographer who took numerous family photos. This same type of ease that Frida displays in the Juley photo can be glimpsed in the photo by Imogen Cunningham seen in my last post. What persona do you think Frida projects for the camera in these two photos?
© Celia S. Stahr 2014