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Photo Synthesis

Fashion International (1996)

September 17, 2006|Colin Westerbeck

When I asked Palm Springs collector David Knaus to choose a favorite print, he named a photographer but wanted me to decide which photograph. Although all came from a series Christina Fernandez did on L.A. garment factories that use immigrant labor, this one stood out because of its connection to other phases of her career.

That Fernandez takes personally her relationship to those she investigates, especially women, is more obvious in other projects. She herself appears in two, first with the names of female relatives written on her skin, then as a figure superimposed on older portraits of women. In the garment factory series, titled "Manuela S-t-i-t-c-h-e-d," the photographs were all made at the same distance from a closed facade, as if mug shots of the buildings. The imagery is impassive, even impersonal. Yet the quality of a palimpsest--of one historical narrative being written over another--shows through.

The passage through time is seen here in two very different kinds of murals. The Mayan origins represented by the headdress on the left wall culminate in the graffiti on the right. And locked inside this history, hidden behind the door that straddles past and present, are the women with whom Fernandez identifies. "Fashion Int'l" it says atop the right wall, as if the name were just more graffiti.

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