The Penn Project: Models of a New Era

In 1984, I discovered Irving Penn at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and was amazed by both the simplicity and depth of his work. Irving Penn was one of the twentieth century's great fotographers, known for his arresting portraits and master printmaking. Although he was celebrated as one of Vogue magazine's top photographers for decades, Penn approached fotography in a different manner. Beyond using photography as a means of communication, Penn approached portraiture with an artists mindset and expanded the studio set up to the great outdoors, oftentimes, only using natural light. Like my mother, Penn shot with a Roleiflex TLR camera and an 85mm Zeiss Planar lens. Perhaps that was the connection that made me immediately drawn to him.

I can get obsessed by anything if I look at it long enough. That’s the curse of being a photographer.
— Irving Penn

Penn’s Cinema Curtain was found in Paris and was the foundation of this photographic career. The curtain, mired in stains, rips and texture over time, provides a time capsule for those who have stood before it. I wanted to be a piece of that history.

Fotographer Unknown, Circa 1948 Cuzco, Peru (c) The Irving Penn Foundation

Fotographer Unknown, Circa 1948 Cuzco, Peru (c) The Irving Penn Foundation

I stumbled upon the Curtain during a recent exhibition celebrating Penn’s Centennial at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) in New York City. I viewed the show two times and discovered something different each time.  While people were allowed to view and fotograph selfies in front of the curtain, security would swiftly approach you if you wanted to photograph it alone. That was a “no-no”. Darn!

At the Met sneaking in a Selfie with the famed Penn Cinema Curtain.

At the Met sneaking in a Selfie with the famed Penn Cinema Curtain.

I knew after seeing Penn’s work again that I wanted to invest further in my own fotography equipment. I searched high and low for a perfect curtain of my own and eventually found it. But was it Penns? No.

Somewhere in the midst of the madness of obtaining new studio equipment, a Curtain, my newfound obsession with Irving Penn and recovering from a broken hand, a limited opportunity arose to enable me to do the “Penn Project: Models of a New Era” and I jumped to task.

My next step was to begin contacting those whom I have met in the Cosplay community over the years with hopes they would want to be a part of my Penn Project. At the end of the day, a total of 40 cos-players volunteered. Three days of a grueling shoot schedule in Westchester County and New York City proved formidable as my characters came to life and transformed before me. At completion, the project spans a total of 35 Cos-players, some of which are not named as to their commitment to embrace the Character.

"The Penn Project" is a collection of Cos-players featuring the Cinema Curtain similar to that used by Irving Penn. In the world of Cosplay, the realm is filled with a diverse community driving the social norm to new levels. I wanted to embrace the populace and introduce it to vintage Vogue.

Shot exclusively with an Olympus Pen F and an Olympus M.Zuiko 12 - 40 mm 2.8 lens, the Curtain was reborn to provide a home to classic characters from Samurai Jack's Aku, various Anime & Video games to the Independent film, Worst Case Scenario" by Richard Raaphorst.

A Note on Post Editing: Photoshop was minimally used for exposure corrections, minor burning/dodging where needed, and fixing the bottom of the curtain against the floor when needed.

For more information on Irving Penn, please visit:

Broken - A Life of Challenges & Change

History of Broken –

I began creating “Broken” to represent the challenges of my life that have “broken” me along the way. The self-portrait portion of the piece was taken in April 2k16 and “The Elements” were created between November 2k16 through January 2k17.

I wanted this to be a very personal self-portrait. Many times, I would begin working on “The Elements” and then put it down because the memories it invoked during the process were often painful.

The piece took four computers to make due to technical difficulties. It endured a Mac Book Pro, a Surface Book, and two Surface Pro 4’s before it was finished. I almost lost the images and elements twice during the transitions of the computers. There were many times during the process I thought the image was not meant to be made. Every time the images were at risk, it made me more adamant to make it.

I usually don’t go through the history of my pieces, but knowing how difficult it was to create this under my current unusual circumstances, I found it important to document it for myself and those who had an interest in it. I was once told by a very famous media mogul that no one tells your story better than “you”. “In your life, tell your story.” Thank you KRM for your sound advice.

The portrait began like my others; however, in the process of creating it, on October 16, 2k16, I suffered an accident which broke my right hand.  The result was creating 95% of this with my left hand. Below are portraits taken by my daughter, Gabrielle Lopez whist in the Emergency Room at White Plains Hospital, New York.

"IV & Medical Supplies" - Foto by Gabrielle Lopez

"IV & Medical Supplies" - Foto by Gabrielle Lopez

"Iodine Bath" - Foto by Gabrielle Lopez

"Iodine Bath" - Foto by Gabrielle Lopez

"Broken Hand - A First Look" - Foto by Gabrielle Lopez

"Broken Hand - A First Look" - Foto by Gabrielle Lopez

The Elements -

“The Stitches & Pins” –

Above my head are the “Stitches and Pins” that are currently holding me together in so many ways. This is my injured right hand a week post-surgery.

Stitches & Pins

Stitches & Pins

“The Broken Heart” –

Like many, my heart has been broken over time. I’ve learned that happiness is from within and companionship has a different meaning in my life.

Heart Break & Other Things

Heart Break & Other Things

“The Column” -

I began to think of one of my favorite artists, Frida Kahlo, who, like me, battled with back problems. As an homage to her, I wanted a column to be an integral part of this foto.

In a prior life, I was a professional figure skater, who, like most, trained and taught long hours. The result of my career affected my spine and in 1999, the State of New York declared me “Permanently Partially Disabled”.

“The Broken Hand” –

Within the Column of the foto, lies “The Broken Hand”. On October 16, 2k16, my life changed drastically when my right dominate hand was caught between a side-view mirror of a friend’s car and a garage door. The result was a mangled & “degloved” hand with dislocated knuckles, multiple fractures and a host of mobility/use problems.

As a result of the injury, this piece was 95% created by my left hand. Other elements of the foto include the blood splatter, whose color I matched from a foto I took of the towel I used before getting into the ambulance.

The Column & Broken Hand - X Ray of hand with two Surgical Pins still in place

The Column & Broken Hand - X Ray of hand with two Surgical Pins still in place

“The Sixth Finger” –

Within my right hand, you’ll notice I have an additional finger. It represents the healed finger that I will have in the future with my life back.

The Sixth Finger

The Sixth Finger

 “The Pins & Bruises”–

The “Pins & Bruises” represent the pain I’ve endured physically, emotionally and spiritually throughout my life. The “pins” on my face represent the decisions I’ve made throughout my life. You’ll notice they are much bigger than the others and tears accompany them.

“The Vest” –

“The Vest” is reminder of my childhood and the “restraints” that came with it. As a Latina growing up in 1970’s New York, restraints were abundant. From poverty, racism, child-abuse, lack of resources in education and work, I learned the vest can be removed and problems can be resolved through a myriad of ways. It requires strategy, calm, energy, patience, education and faith in yourself to persevere.

 “The Stone Skirt” –

“The Stone Skirt” represents where woman stood in society in Corporate America. My first job out of college, women were forbidden to wear pants and were subject to termination if they were not properly dressed. You’ll notice the skirt swirls off at the end and fades away as did the rules of dress codes in the 1980’s.

“The Sugar Cane Field” –

“The Sugar Cane Field” represents my challenge living with Type II Diabetes. I took the foto within the Domino Sugar Cane Fields, Lake Okeechobee, Florida, circa 2k13.

“The Dissolved Bars” –

The “Dissolved Bars” represents a period of my life I call the “Voldemort Years”. It was a time filled with death, loss, change and family incarceration. To date, it’s still too painful to speak of. Placing the bars at the last minute was a painful and risky choice, but nonetheless, a part of my life that shaped and changed me.

Challenges Accepted –

I’ve accepted many challenges in my life, and with “silent pride”, I have overcome them. From Heart Ache to Back Ache I’ve healed from the painful “Pins and Bruises” that once formed me.

Since the accident, I’ve sold all of my Canon cameras & equipment because I can no longer hold them. I’ve acquired a lighter camera, an Olympus Pen F, in hopes of returning to the life of a creative fotographer and living life differently.

“Challenge Accepted”

WOMEN: New Portraits by Annie Liebovitz

As you make your way to the West side of 20th Street in New York City, lies the Forgotten Bayview Correctional Facility for women. Bayview was, to a certain extent, was a product of the harsh drug laws passed in the early 1970's and became a prison for women. In 2012, an act of God, Hurricane Sandra, forced the evacuation of its inmates due to the 14 feet of water that encased the prison.

The facility, which boasts an art deco facade, has had a rich history in New York City. The building was built in 1931 by a coalition of organizations including the YMCA. It was committed to providing temporary rooms and other amenities to sailors as an alternate to waterfront dives and seedy boarding houses for visiting Naval personnel known as the Seaman's house. It was dedicated a few months after the opening of its Architects most famous Commission, the Empire State Building. It features Art Deco lighting fixtures around the entryway, a chapel with stained glass windows, a mural of a sailing ship at sea, and the gym.

The same gym today, features the work of Annie Leibovitz. As you enter the building you are kindly greeted by perhaps former Correctional personnel. They stand at attention and eagerly await your arrival.

As you ascend to the third floor, you are directed to a dimly lit room, formerly the gym, in which the far side wall contains the history of the phenomenal artist. The walls feature her most famous work from the last photo of John Lennon with Yoko Ono to Hilary Rodham Clinton.

John Lennon's last photo before his Assassination, 1980. 

John Lennon's last photo before his Assassination, 1980. 

Hilary Rodham Clinton

Hilary Rodham Clinton

Also, surrounding her photographs, are banks of large flat screens which feature her notable work of Tina Fey and the American flag. Her work is shown in a primitive and simplistic manner. The strong women honored in this exhibition are held together by plexiglass, push pins and twine.

Tina Fey

Tina Fey

Annie is in her sixties. The first picture I viewed was that of John Lennon just before he passed away in 1980. As I moved through the exhibition, I realized that Annie had chronicled my life and, in many instances, I was speechless.

If you have the opportunity between now and December 11, 2016, please experience this unbelievable collection photographic history. It was important to Annie to ensure that her work would be available to all. The exhibition is free as well as the catalog information for all of the photographs. It is sponsored by UBS.

Mindful Boundaries - Protecting Your Art


“Mindful Boundaries” – Protect Yourself

 Three Legged Buddha at the Storm King Art Center, NY

©Copyright 2k16 Xposure Artisan by Hillie Galarza

I decided to write a piece about “Mindful Boundaries” that include some “Best Practices” for my fellow Artisans.

I recently experienced the theft of two of my pieces via the internet and, in the process, have learned much about internet safety and protecting myself and my work. Here are some “Best Practices” one should consider if you are in the business or habit of posting your photography or creative pieces in the Social Media world.

Meta Data –

By far the most important step in protecting your work is to take a time-consuming step of adding the meta data to your work if you are going to post it on-line.

For those of you who work with Photoshop, you can add the Meta Data to your finished work as follows:

PS MENU > FILE > FILE INFO > Fill in information in as many tabs that apply.

If you are creating a composite or fine-art piece that contains several components of your work, make sure EVERY fotograph within that piece is protected with the Meta Data.

When creating composites of any kind, think of each component as an individual project that requires protecting no matter how small.

Low Resolution –

When your work is finished and ready to post, you are already “armed” with the Meta Data in your work. Don’t stop there. Take a quick moment to save a version or your work in Low-Resolution, aka “Low Res”.  It’s easy to make a foto Web site ready which means the work is suitable for the internet. Should someone want to take a screen cap or save it to their computer, they still can, however, when they try to enlarge the foto, they are met with a “pixel situation” which protects your work from theft as well.

Copyright – “To register or Not Register, that is the question”

If you want to further protect your work, you can register it with the U.S. Copyright Office for a fee. I used to think if you wrote the term: ©Copyright 2k16 XposureArtisan by Hillie G for example, it was a “done deal”. Doing this essentially does ward off potential offenders about 70% of the time, but if you find yourself in a courtroom and your piece wasn’t registered, you may have a problem. So I’d suggest registering any piece before you head into a courtroom for added security. While the registration may be late, once again, your meta data saves you if you put in the date of creation. 

For more interesting information about Copyrights and how they are used, please visit:

Watermark –

If you chose to use a watermark for the sole purpose of protecting your work, guess again. As a “Best Practice”, don’t depend on that.  Even the average Photoshop or Gimp user can lift a watermark in under 30 minutes and that’s someone who has minimal skills with the clone or healing tool.

Watermarks are useful to submit proofs to private clients, which also should be submitted in very “low-res”. If you think your client won’t “steal” from you to get extra fotos after they have paid you, guess again. Protect yourself and your hard work at all times.

If you choose to use a watermark, the placement of it should also be an integral part of your foto. Simply said, “Don’t mess up your work with an annoying watermark.” Showing your work in any medium should show off your skills, not your watermark. This is a common “offense” with new fotographers.

If you have a watermark, consider a logo as well. Make “Brand You*” stand out from the rest of the competition. “Photography by” or Joe Smith Photography” is simply played out to the point of no return. Extend your creativity and “Brand Yourself”.

Being “Social” and “Preview” –

“I just created a piece, now what? If you want to showcase your work on Social Media such as Facebook (FB) and Instagram (IG), be “mindful” of the consequences of sharing your work on these venues. Follow the “Best Practices” of: Meta Data, Low Resolution, Watermarks and Copyright options.

 REMEMBER: The Facebook (FB) and Instagram (IG) Terms and Conditions freely state that images contained therein are “Royalty Free”. The minute your foto is posted you just gave it away. But should you give it ALL away?

The simple answer is No. Consider creating a small Screen Cap or Preview of your creative piece and post part of the image on FB and IG. If you have a website with your art, direct your traffic to your personal site instead.

If your site, has an analytic component, such as Squarespace, you will see the traffic flow almost immediately. Besides, as a photographer, it’s your website that ultimately creates sales for you. FB & IG are limited Marketing tools that can be used safely to enhance your site for sales. Social Media should never be used solely for sales.

FB & IG are “Popularity Contest” websites in which YOU are the product. Ever tried looking for the Customer Service link on them?

In closing…

Be careful with your hard work. You deserve the best!

Stay Focused - Hillie

Hillie Galarza created Xposure Artisan in 1987 and specializes in natural light portraits, floral and creative fotography. Her work can be found on She lives with her millennial daughter and puppy Audrey Hepburn in Westchester, NY.

*A “Brand You” Presentation is in the works for Xposure Artisan and the Alliance will be released shortly.

The Death of Photoshop: Advertising, Fotography & its Ethical Issues

Every once in a while, I’m confronted with issues brought to my attention in the world of Marketing and Advertising that are worth sharing with my creative community.

As a creative fotographer who uses an arsenal of foto editing tools like Gimp and/or Photoshop for creative pieces, the Ethics of Photography may not affect me much in this genre.

However, in the area of studio fotography in which some of you may have the opportunity to work with models, whether on a professional or amateur level, this information may cause you to “pause” before opening up your beloved Photoshop.

In recent months, the Advertising industry has been faced with issues that fall under the elements of “Truth in Advertising, Transparency and Advertising Ethics.” Regardless of what you call it, it boils down to one basic principle: “Honesty”.

Q: When one uses Photoshop to enhance a model for advertising, are we being truthful to those we sell our product to?

A: No. We are “selling a visual” of what we would like our product to do for you. As to whether that product can yield the desired result in the ad is another issue. As a result, the issue of “Truth in Advertising” becomes a cause of concern.

Q: How does it affect Consumer choices?

A: YES, it affects the choices we make. As visual people, we want the end result of any product we buy to resemble what the “packaging” looks like or offers; whether it is blonder hair, cleaner clothing or better tasting beer. Visual choices, or “impulse buys” take up a big part of our income annually; are they based on lies? For more information and statistics on Impulse buying check out:

Q: Does it affect the way we perceive role-models and affect young children?

(c) 2k16 Copyright Sports Illustrated Ashley Graham - Sports Illustrated Cover 2k16

(c) 2k16 Copyright Sports Illustrated Ashley Graham - Sports Illustrated Cover 2k16

A: One of the biggest concerns in media is the issue of body image. With Sports Illustrated featuring the beautiful Ashley Graham on its cover to bring awareness to this revolution, other issues have risen to the forefront questioning the use of Photoshop.

Some organizations want to ban the use of Photoshop entirely, while others are calling for studies on the use of “Photo Shopping” of Models in advertising and the effect it has on children’s body image issues.  

Some of the items on the table for discussion in the industry are adopting some sort of “Ethical Standards” for the industry.  One of the standards is to discourage the “photo shopping” of images to make models appear “thinner”.

However, there is a problem with that statement alone. When we think of “thinner” the media automatically assumes “thinner” is good for women. But if you want “bigger”, you want your subject to be a man. 

Take the case of Justin Beiber and his Calvin Klein Ad below; clearly, bigger is better in this instance, but it is photoshopped.

(c) 2k15 Copyright Calvin Klien - Justin Bieber

(c) 2k15 Copyright Calvin Klien - Justin Bieber

Now let’s look at a Mark Wahlberg 1992 Calvin Ad that doesn’t use Photoshop-

(c) 1k92 Coyright Calvin Klien - Mark Wahlberg

How much is too much Photoshop and do I really need to use PS for EVERY picture I take?

For me, I’m going to err on the side of “balance”. I’m come from a school of film and woke up in a digital world after a hiatus from my craft. I am essentially anti-Photoshop for anything that is NOT creative. So my portraits of adult models that are taken in the studio are basically 98% - 100% Photoshop free. My floral fotography is 100% Photoshop Free, as I never saw a need to use PS on flora at all.

I take a great deal of pride when I see a foto and can add, “Photoshop NOT included.”

Is the “Death of Photoshop” on the horizon?

I pray not because I’m a creative soul, but for those who are the die-hard studio fotographers who make their income on portraits, weddings and newborn photography, the issue causes a moment of “pause”.  Now is the time to “hone” your skills in ways that you never thought before and learn all that you can about composing “in” the camera.

I don’t think that Photoshop will ever be “dead”, nor should Adobe worry about its position in the Foto editing realm of software. Photoshop is here to stay because of its use in Graphic arts. But should we, as fotographers, be concerned of its over-use in the industry and how we sell our services? I’d say yes. I think this Ethical Issue is going to create a whole “New/OLD” type of Fotography. Let’s use the popular trend term and call it, “Organic”. Fotography.

This is where you “weigh in”.

The Hunted

"In a Forest a tree stands amongst his peers; a forest is what they make."

"The Hunted" was inspired by the art of Frida Kahlo's 1946 Painting of the same name.

I stumbled across a herd of deer near my home and they were kind enough to allow me to take fotos of them for quite some time. As I spent time with these beautiful animals, I was saddened by those who go out to kill them for the sport of it. At that time, the Hymn was born and two months later the final foto emerged.

The tail of the deer is in a down position indicating he is calm and doesn't feel threatened.

The deer is adorned with roses on her hair as an homage to Frida Kaho, but it also has a "rack" representing the "hunter" who is "out for his head."

The 13 points within the image represents her luck.

And finally, my face and that of the deer are blended as one. On my forehead, you can see the last vestiges of the deers eyes and her nose just above my lips.

An Homage to Frida & face blend

An Homage to Frida & face blend

The deer and background images were taken at the Rye Marshlands Conservatory in Westchester County, NY.

"A life rests to take a break." - The Hunted by Hillie Galarza