charlotte whalen – rosa



Rosa   by   Charlotte Whalen


Related links

After La Violencia

61 Responses to “charlotte whalen – rosa”

  • Utterly mystical. What a change from yesterday’s selected photo. Wow, David, you really keep us guessing!


  • This spooked me. Rather it spooks me.

    I’ve nothing more to say at this point. I need to let this one linger a while.

  • Cousin IT? :)))

    (from The Adams family)

    My hair was never this long but it went to the bottom of my back in High School and that’s what my Mom called me. :))

    Not sure what else to say at this point.

  • This one really doesn’t do anything for me. Interesting idea, but no emotional response here.

  • Well, Charlotte likely has other pics that I may prefer but I have to say that this one leaves me a bit unsure personally… The hair is out of this world and I sort of see your point Pat about being mystical but hummmmm…. still not sure really…. picture does not touch me or speak to me…


  • Hamlet: …I did love you once.
    Ophelia: Indeed, my, lord, you made me believe so.
    Hamlet: You should not have believed me…I loved you not.
    Ophelia: I was the more deceived.

    The hair, the bit of river and a feeling of innocence, makes me instantly think of Ophelia.

  • Well, WOW, i’ve just returned from looking at and Reading After La violencia as well as looking at Charlotte’s website:

    Let me first say, that I think ALL the work (both the website project After La Violencia and the photographs on her website) on Guatemala is magnificent. Deeply intelligent and penetrative, combining a thoughtful and rich introspective examination of the devastating effect on Guatemala of both war (civil, drug) and economic devastation. I love the photographs (again, taking a Soth-like approach to journalism, with an eye toward witness and description through a honed eye rather than classic journalistic technique). They absolutely remind me of the extraordinary novel 2666 by my hero Roberto Bolano. Also, the series: Guatemala: archives, reminds of the Horacio Castellanos Moya’s brilliant, recently translated novel SENSELESSNESS. I read the novel in December and Charlotte, can I recommend the book and all of Moya’s work to you?…ditto Bolano’s 2666.

    The project After La Violencia is really quite extraordinary, combing photography, interview, text and analysis is takes the idea of reporting, documentation, conceptual thinking (art) and art-service as a means to support, grass roots style, causes that need to be helped. The photography is great (i liked the sub-prime project alot too), but what i love best about La Violencia is it’s commitment to intelligent, empassioned political support through a generous and insightful eye that speaks. It’s all great and I really really love the photographer in the project, but it’s act of witnessing and political involvement is very very refreshing.

    As for the photograph, Rosa. I too love it. It reminds me of one of my favorite ‘photography’ books: Wisconsin Death Trip. Wisconsin Death Trip is really not a ‘photography’ book, but an extraordinary book about history, reportage, imagery. When i first bought it (when it had been re-released a few years ago, i was stunned)….a weird and seminal book (originally published in ’73) about history and time and well, dying…and one small town….and the photographs found…..

    “Rosa” reminds me of my favorite images from that book, of a horse…

    the book is filled with death, all the death that strangely befell a small 19th century town in Wisconsin….and it is all there: the length of her hair, the facelessness…the verdant valley, the pool (drowning) beneath her feet…and she is, like in Ringu, a ghost…someone that has left us or is still in mourning….

    all this, for me, conveyed in the trellises of her hair, the small pond of water at her feet, her refusal to turn around…the trees, like Antietam, enclosing all that have gone before her….

    a haunting photograph…..

    and it is so great to see Burn stretch not just for evocative and literate journalism, but for literate and evocative photography all the way around :))


  • just left a comment :))))))))….

    love ‘Rosa’ (you’ll see why when David unlocks my comment, ’cause i posted to links’)…and love Charlotte’s entire body of work….especially all the projects related to Guatemala :)))…


  • she stands like a tree…
    I get a feeling of death..
    looks like a platinum print,
    which I adore…

  • If the photo needs context to be understood, perhaps it would have been better presented as part of an essay.

  • Jim:

    for me, this photo absolutely does not need context….it stands fully on it’s own :)))….but, as a photographer, and a viewer, I react strongly to the image, for it’s metaphoric power but also for what it conveys to me, akin to an important book about history/death that is a huge part of my internal life…ow what i wrote in my ‘now awaiting moderation’ first comment

    …more once David unleashes my comment :))

    running for the night

  • Jim, I’m having fun gambling with myself on which pictures you’ll like and which ones you won’t. Let’s just say I’m cleaning up…. :)

  • Really like this one.

    Subtle tones, hardly a true black around except in her hair and under trees.

    Love the lack of separation. She blends right in to her surroundings, nice photo to get lost in.

  • This image needs no externally-dictated context for me either. I find myself entering it on tiptoe fearful of breaking the spell it has cast. Do you know who comes to mind? Harry Callahan’s Eleanor series.

    Isn’t it interesting how differently each of us “sees”? And what speaks to some and not to others? That’s what I love about art in general and photography in particular: its idiosyncratic nature.


  • Patricia – I, too, am reminded of Callahan’s images of his wife. Not to limit “Rosa” with a one-to-one comparison, but I think Rosa’s relation to her environment is similar to Eleanor’s as she is neck deep in the water, her hair floating around her. These figures are submerged, literally in Eleanor’s case and metaphorically in Rosa’s. They are tranquil. They are muted. As Jared said, she blends into her surroundings. Seems an integral part of them. I now shut up before I give away the fact that I don’t know what I’m talking about.

  • Ah John, you sound to me like you know very well what you are talking about. You’ve painted a word picture that certainly speaks to me…


  • Adding on to what Patricia said about how it’s “interesting how differently each of us sees”

    I absolutely agree. It seems to me that some of us are mainly “seeing” what is in the frame, often from a point of view of composition, lighting and story only based on THIS image while others are “seeing” based on many other influences in addition to what is shown in the frame.

    To some degree we all bring everything in our lives to the moment when we look at the photo but it seems that some use their imagination more than others when they see. Perhaps to someone this photo illustrates their favorite poem, maybe it reminds them of another photo they like, maybe it looks like a scene out of a dream they had, either good or bad or reminds them of an ex wife, either good or bad :))…adding other layers onto the photo and influencing their opinion about it. No way of seeing being better than any other of course.

    I’ve never studied painting or sculpture but perhaps seeing is taught differently in different art forms?

    Anyone agree or disagree with this observation?

  • I wrote that before reading Bob’s now unlocked comment BTW. :))

  • i felt the death too..
    b4 reading your comment here..

    i think art always comes from within..
    its up to the viewer for interpretation..
    whatever medium an artist chooses..
    is self expression..
    yes, the study of light, balance, form, composition, depth, perspective etc.. is the same in all arts..
    its a way of seeing..
    and of course, conceptual art is its own..
    but I think technology in the arts, has completely changed this world..
    still great, but different..
    In the gallery
    we just had a wood tuners show, and someone had calibrated his computer to his lathe, and had the program cut in his wood bowl…
    that to me,
    is what is different within the ‘arts’ and what is being taught..

  • Thank you.

  • Hello everyone, been reading for a while and just decided to start commenting.

    For me, I was not formally trained in art and thus I have a healthy respect for every artist, because I assume they must know better than I do. So when I see work that I don’t immediately understand, I try to come at it with my heart open and my mind turned off. That way hopefully the artist’s message gets through without any of my preconceptions getting in the way.

    This one is effective for me for the emotional content. Whatever choices we each may have made for tone, composition, etc, the subject is central here and it awakens in me curiosity, nostalgia, and a faint sense of pity for wrongs suffered.

  • “Art” is a kind of visceral thing to me. It either grabs me or it doesn’t, and if it does I spend more time looking at it and trying to understand it. If it draws me in, I buy it. Every photo isn’t art. Self expression certainly, but not art. I say that only in response to the thread, not as a judgement about Charlotte Whalen’s photography.

    To me, this photo needs context. Josh, above, says it awakens in him “a faint sense of pity for wrongs suffered.” But the photo itself doesn’t contain cues to draw that conclusion. Without the backstory, the context, I suspect he would have had a different response.

  • I like the visual rythm of this. Can nicely open a series of images.

  • Interesting image, but the background is too randomly chosen imo. A different framing (pheraps excluding the sky and filling the background with the tall grass and trees) would enhance the power of this shot.

    PS: no way to access, will try later with a different browser…


    the sky in the upper left hand corner has been bothering me all along…the hair blending with the tall grass and trees is of course the visual connection for this photograph, but i keep wishing Charlotte had taken a half step to the left and pointed the camera about one inch down..tiny tiny movement here would have given us the same picture, but well, just for lack of a better term, a better picture..a classic picture…yes, this could have been is now simply good… is always the very very small movements that turn good into great…yes yes , the more i look at it , the upper left sky does not work…pulls the eye too hard left ,away from the hair, for no visual reason….the power of the hair and the isolation, and the background, are the only elements necessary….

    interestingly, if this photograph had been taken with a Holga or had the feeling of “unselfconscious photographer”, then maybe the sky would be a part of an overall “i did not try too hard”… Lassal’s landscape last week..however, this photograph looks like the photographer was really “trying”…some attempt at formalism…so it is kind of caught between casual and formal and neither is really served in my view…..

    now, having said this, i do like the picture…i chose the picture…but, ultimately for me it is hmmmm “almost”

    HOWEVER, the context and the issues for this photograph are meaningful and important…i do not know Charlotte, but i will try to contact her to see how i can help..she is a worthy crusader and to be commended for taking special interest……this war torn area has left a black hole in the hearts of many…this indigenous region is home for the last holdouts of Spanish incursion into the Americas…a proud culture whose blood runs red with passion… as one man told me in this very town of Nebaj , “i have hated the last 500 years”….

    cheers, david

  • I actually don’t know any of the backstory or context yet; I haven’t checked out the link or looked at Charlotte’s other photography. I suppose the name of the link itself provides some context. But even without a backstory, any portrait taken that shows the subject clearly alone and hiding their face suggests a level of shame.

    Of course you or I might have made different technical choices, and probably some of them could have heightened the emotional impact. What I’m trying to say is that some impact is still there for me. If I found this while flipping through a book or portfolio, it would probably make me stop.

  • David,

    This note of yours about this photo is of great help. I always try to read what everybody is saying about a particular photo. Photography is subjective, so opinions differ. But since you are the Curator of Burn and you choose the photos, it makes a real difference to many of us who are trying to learn here.

    So I would request you to consider adding a Curator’s Note (in brief, may be) as to what you liked in the particular photo so that we, who are trying to learn, can understand a little more about good photography and give an insight.

    But since this note of your may influence the comments that will follow, the note can be put at the time of upload of the next day’s photograph. Needless to say, this brief note will be of great help.

  • I think her subjects are in a way dictated by the limitations in her use of a 4×5 camera on a tripod and the fact that she is an art photographer trying to tell a story that really needs gritty documentary work. If she can raise money selling these prints to help these people, though, it’s certainly a worthy cause.

  • Really nice.

    Its got a really striking blend of Rapunzel/forest nymph imagery – you got that lost wandering spirit feeling down to tee.

    I also think B+W was the best choice for this composition.

    Really striking.


  • Jim:

    I respect your point of view completely but i totally disagree. her use of a med format camera is not a limitation but a different orientation/language by which she is telling the story of the lives of the people in Guatemala. I would never argue why viewers who do not feel the power of this photograph should. Each person brings to viewing photographs an entire camerabag of history and language and background and each image and each body of work as a specific set of tools by which is was carved and each person has their own personal visual/intellectual/emotional and experiential ability to react, reflect and digest an image. Her work is documentation, but she is using the vocabulary of her training and her interest to speak about the lives she’s photographed and spent time with. In fact, I find this photograph compelling and filled with all kinds of visual metaphors. As soon as i saw the image (before i looked at both After La Violencia and her website), i immediately thought: death. she is mourning something, something do do with the landscape or someone who has left: land, family, spouse, child, etc. I immediately thought of the Civil war pics and other photographers who shoot landscape troubled by war (thinking of Mann’s work Deep South) to reflect loss. I also thought of the book i mentioned (wisconsin death trip), as soon as i saw this image. It is true i have a stupidly large amount of imagery in my head (before i became a photographer, and still now as a photographer, i ate as many photobooks from the full range of photography, as i could) and books sit there too (the writers nourishment), and that when i see a pic, i always get flooded with emotional feelings (when the pic works) and other associations. the ‘context’ of this photograph is their in is iconography, at least for me. knowing the work in the greater body of work, simply enhances the power of the image and certaintly contextualizes this picture, but even without that, i thought: damn, that’s a death-haunged, sad photograph. Visual accuity for a photogarpher is critical, though they dont need to be an articulate viewer to make powerful work. I never set out to ‘think’ about a picture, it happens naturally, like a flood: i guess that’s the person i am.

    Nor is it necessary or possible that all people react or feel the same, or have the same knowledge or background. I always think that is is the viewers responsiblity, not the artists, to do the work. the artist’s work is in the making, the observation, the telling. lots of great great journalism as gone into documenting the tragedy of S.america: think of the powerful and important work by John Hoagland before he was killed in Central America, or the monumental work by Susan Meisalas (Nicaragua) both her photography and her documentary film about her coverage and the lives of people. both of those photographers (and a host of others) have documented fiercely the wars and the carnage in c.america…and the work is continued to this day, with gang warfare and drug and death squads. but Charlotte’s work, no less powerful, is of a different nature…

    maybe it is because, generally speaking, most of the photographer here seem to be drawn to journalistic work, which requires context, information that is immediately digestable, that this work doesn’t resonate or doesnt detail so digestably. and for photographers who don’t ‘feel’ the photograph, i respect that. there is nothing to be bothered by that. However, the measure, at least for me, as both a photographer and a viewer, is this: has the photographer or the image brought to bare using the tools of their trade the story contained in the moment photographed, beit journalistic or meditative.

    I dont see this at all as ‘art’ photography…i see it as story telling and portraiture: of the lives that have lost so much. the way i dont think the same while im reading joan didion or michael herr’s dispatches as i do the work literary treatments…

    but the limitations are not hers……nor her subjects….but our own as viewers….



    well, at the beginning of my doing posts here on BURN i thought i should stay out of it completely…choose the picture and then let the photographer/author of the picture take questions from or respond to the readers…this actually has worked quite well several times..other times the photographer chooses to stay out of it too..that is the photographer’s prerogative….i am afraid that if i jump in at the beginning this could skew the comments that follow…after all, i have chosen the picture in the first opinion of the worthiness of the picture is self evident.. there could be many reasons for that choice..either i really love the photograph, or i just know that it will spark discussion, or both…in any case, i will give my opinion of the photograph or essays as it seems appropriate….the other thing is this…time…sometimes when i post , i just do not have the time to critique as i takes me a long time to choose the photograph in the first place…there are dozens of submissions every day….daily updating of BURN takes lots of time in editing, viewing etc….if i do it this way, i can come back to the picture when i am having my morning coffee and make comments accordingly..anyway Subrajit, i will try as best i can to be as helpful to you as possible..and the essays being built now for “work in progress” should be very helpful for you as well..keep your eye on that section….

    cheers, david

  • i think the project which this photograph is a part of is fantastic.. covering education, simply artistry and concieved with genuine intent.. good work.
    i’m seeing more and more artsist asking for donations to continue work, through websites and teh like, and this interests me.. is it now the case that with so few publications paying for stories such as this that we are reduced to touting our work as worthy of charity? this is not something i have a problem with to be honest – any way in which an artists seeks funding if just fine by me, however does this bring about a new aspect to working, which does not require commission nor solid conclusion but rather allows the work to evolve naturally and as an ongoing concern?

    donations to the cause which the work highlights also seem to be included through the artists site – which i think is an excellent and compassionate side benefit of the work.

    regardless of the photo above, a great project well worth support and time..

  • The sky top left doesn’t bother me at all. In fact I like it that way. Otherwise the image might lack depth. I like that the sky adds distance. It pulls the picture off kilter slightly and I like that tension. It’s there for a reason, I’m sure. Deliberately or subconsciously.

  • For me, it is strong enough to lure me to look at more of your work..I’m curious..and as for this image, I like that it reminds me of the tradition of photographing women with their very long hair down..sort of like this one

  • …Dunno…
    I still feel a missing
    Unicorn somewhere around..
    too Ridley Scottish..

  • … and with that long
    witchy hair I would prefer her
    full nude but then again
    It’s just me, waking up..
    Morning y’all from
    the bloody LA..

  • missing unicorn…
    love it!!!
    its behind the tree..

  • Wendy…
    It’s so weird..
    First thing after waking up:
    Check on BURN then go brush the
    teeth.. etc..
    It used to be a day that coffee
    was a priority..
    Now it’s BURN..
    is it just me?
    addictive personality???
    Or is it a BURNpidemic???

  • Me too Panos, Burn, tea, toast, toilet ….. is that too much information?

  • I hear you ..Mike
    First Burn
    then the toast..
    Then the rest….room!!!

  • DAVID, BOB, others who have mentioned Guatemala…

    I have looked on the link Charlotte posted here as well as her personal website and see nothing but color photography. This image does not show up on either site…so does anyone have any reason to believe that this image has anything to do with Guatemala? Neither the attire nor physical appearance say “Guatemala” to me. I am also a lover of Guatemala and respect her decision to tackle the issues there but unless she has told us that this image goes with the other Guatemala images I have no reason to think they go together.

    When David says “the context and the issues for this photograph are meaningful and important…” it seems like a leap of faith to me. It might be helpful to get a little background info from Charlotte.

    Continuing the “seeing” discussion…should a photographer’s body of work influence our opinion about an individual image? I tend to want a single image image to stand alone and speak for itself without my needing to add anything.

  • Interesting picture to spark discussion.
    First impression. Seventies prog rock album art. odd DOF, green? filtered?
    Second impression. I dont really ‘feel’ anything here. I am looking at an image that may or may not have implied narrative. If it does it is not a narrative that I can reach out to.
    It seems to ask me some questions, but then again, not any questions I really feel the need to seek out answers for.
    I have nothing against this picture, unfortunately I have nothing much for it either, or it me, it seems.
    It does however seem to resonate with quite a few people, many of whom seem to have managed to strike up quite a lively dialogue with it and with each other. Thats as it should be

  • Intriguing photograph Charlotte, congratulations. As Unevolved N says above; it does have a look of film that has been filtered, perhaps even infrared film? Good range of tones – although the photographs is predominately light in tonality, the blacks are there where they should be.

    Best wishes,


  • What about just cropping the sky out in Photoshop/ darkroom? Or is that a no-no?

  • Interesting perspective on the sky, David. I’ve tried looking at this photo with the sky cropped out and find it speaks quite a different narrative, to me anyway.

    Without the sky I see a woman standing alone in a field lost in thought. It is an internal dialogue she is having, one that needs no external stimulation. We are given no clues as towhat she is thinking.

    With the sky and hills in the distance, however, I see her looking towards the future, an unknown future but something that is drawing her forward. Her body is actually turned in that direction, as if that is where her gaze is resting.

    Personally I prefer the photo as Charlotte took it. Perhaps it is not as ideal photographically speaking but as an image that tells a story, that is the story that speaks to me.


  • Please forgive me! That last comment was NOT posted by DAH. My mistake.


  • I really think it needs that sliver of sky… it shows the downhill roll of the hills, yet the woman stands straight up, another similarity with the trees, further sinking her into the background.

  • Again,
    who took the Unicorn away????

  • I second Cathy’s query about the connection with the rest of the images on Charlotte’s website.
    I couldn’t find any apart from that kind of airiness that this image shares with some others at her portfolios.

    Apart from that, the long hair, long dress, the back turned to us and the looking towards the bushes, they all consent towards a sense of mystery and disquiet.

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