Monday, June 17, 2024

How I found my freedom in Frida Kahlo’s fashion

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Zach Bergren for Paloma

I’ve always had a contentious relationship with Frida Kahlo.

Her embodiment of symbolic imagery in her art, activism, and fashion fostered an air of mystery that fed into her public persona: socially established yet colorfully exotic. Frida’s standing as an upper-class woman of half-German descent serves as a perfect example of how sociocultural factors like class, race, and colorism use “socially acceptable” historical figures to address topics and themes that are tied to underrepresented communities. Much of what Frida embodied and became infamous for was from indigenous communities in Mexico that didn’t get the same amount of attention or respect.

OPED Photo Essay Exploring My Transness Through the Fashion of Frida Kahlo via Documentary Photography

Zach Bergren for Paloma

When beginning this project, I wanted to do so with the utmost respect in investigating the nuances of Frida’s life and style while also being careful not to place her on a pedestal of untouchability. This series seeks to embody the material impact of Frida’s legacy, such as her paintings and specific pieces of her wardrobe, to explore ideas of transition, rebirth, pain, beauty, sorrow, and solemn joy.

OPED Photo Essay Exploring My Transness Through the Fashion of Frida Kahlo via Documentary Photography

Zach Bergren for Paloma

The original conception of this series coincided with the beginning of my medical transition. That was an intentional choice. There is a raw honesty I wanted to imbue into this entire experience. I spent many nights combing through Frida’s work and being overwhelmed by the sheer intensity of her lifelong struggle with pain — both physical and emotional. In building this connection with her, I began to understand just how similar our experiences were. Existing within the sorrow of not belonging and the beauty of Mexican womanhood has left me in a constant state of dissonance in which I never know if I’m good enough.

OPED Photo Essay Exploring My Transness Through the Fashion of Frida Kahlo via Documentary Photography

Zach Bergren for Paloma

This project is a reflection of my soul and internal struggles in a way that I think other trans women can relate to. I’ve imbued my essence into each of these four collections of photographs, and I’m so grateful to finally share them.

Thank you endlessly to Zach, Jazzmint, and Cara for being such understanding, kind, and patient collaborators; I came to each of you with a crazy idea and you all met it with even crazier tenacity—I love you all dearly. Thank you to my boyfriend, Julian, for holding my hand as I weeped, and laughed, and cried trying to figure this all out. And, most importantly, thank you to the Mexican women that raised me without whom I would not be here today.

OPED Photo Essay Exploring My Transness Through the Fashion of Frida Kahlo via Documentary Photography

Zach Bergren for Paloma

Y a mi Frida Kahlo…thank you for showing me that I am not alone in my solitude but rather anointed in the beautifully tumultuous essence of being a Mexicana.

Con amor,

Paloma

OPED Photo Essay Exploring My Transness Through the Fashion of Frida Kahlo via Documentary PhotographyFinding my freedom in the fashion of Frida KahloZach Bergren for Paloma

Photos: Zach Bergren for Paloma (Arranged for Out by Nikki Aye)

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