Photography

Marilyn Szabo

Maria Callas

Though I have never been a fan of opera I became very intrigued with it after watching Maria Callas sing on TV. Her voice and face stayed with me long after. I wanted to see more of her. I viewed Callas on videos and became enthralled with her presence, her vocal abilities and her incredible facial expressions. I thought that if she were alive I would photograph her. Callas died in 1972 so this was obviously impossible. Thoughts about this phenomenon of modern life start – that we can view someone so closely with the technology of film that we feel that we know this person without ever having met them. I decided that I could accomplish a photographic portrait study of Callas off these videos just as well as I could if she was alive. Where someone this famous would probably only give a small amount of time for photographing I could photograph her continuously and at my convenience.

I photographed archival and modern video footage of Ms. Callas’ converting still images to slides, then reprinting slide images to oversized black and white prints. These facial images representing the various phases of Ms. Callas’ personal life are the result.

Maria Callas has particular relevance to me and to women ranging in age from adolescence to midlife that are struggling with patriarchal and feminist values in Western society. Often, Western society views Ms. Callas as an example of success – a product to be proud of. She also represents the struggle of women in a patriarchal society for dignity, for recognition of their skills and talents and recognition as equal partners in human society. Sadly, she became a victim of society taught generation after generation that women are something less.

Her trouble began in childhood with a father who saw music lessons for little girls as worthless. But she also was a victim of her domineering mother, who began Maria on a relentless career drive at a very early age; of a larger society that made tycoons of men like Aristotle Onassis, who left Ms. Callas for Jackie Kennedy, and paradoxes of women such as Ms. Callas, who became tortured masters of the peers – a woman who had it all, except what she and most women of her time wanted most: acceptance and love.

I am intrigued by the texture of video. I want to embrace it into my rich fully toned black and white prints. Maria Callas cannot be separated in terms of video and photography; for me to see her I must view her in video. I replace photographic tone with video texture, shooting off the monitor and manipulating it. Videography is not necessarily the next step in photography as an art, but it’s been a part of my life and of my view of modern technology. I am able to incorporate and apply it in new ways. Texture hybrids with meaning. Maria Callas on the TV becomes the Icon.