Seeing everyday experience in a new light
When two policemen riding a motorcycle in Cartagenita, Colombia, noticed Ivan Kashinsky photographing the barrio early one morning, they took him to the station for questioning. He was worried—had he done something illegal?—until the officers got out their cellphones and began photographing him. “I realized they were more curious about me than anything else,” Ivan recalls. Then the police said it was too dangerous to walk around the neighborhood alone toting expensive camera gear. Next thing he knew, he says, “I was stuffed between two cops on a motorcycle taking a tour of Cartagenita.”
Ivan’s assignment, his first for us, was to document Colombia’s flower farms, which supply an astonishing 70 percent of the cut flowers sold in the United States (“Flower Power,”). “I had fun photographing the flowers and the whole process,” says the 33-year-old Los Angeles-area native, who now lives in Quito, Ecuador. “It really is amazing how much energy goes into growing the flowers and keeping them fresh and perfect.”
Yet, as the writer John McQuaid points out in the accompanying story, there are human and environmental costs associated with producing all the blooms Americans will snap up this month for Valentine’s Day, the No. 1 fresh-flower holiday in the United States. “For many Colombians these jobs are crucial to survival,” Ivan says. “But when you see how the people live, you quickly realize they simply are not being paid enough.” His photographs and John’s reporting together achieve something Smithsonian takes pride in doing: opening our readers’ eyes to the unexpected richness of everyday experience.
Wayne Thiebaud, one of America’s most important living artists, is perhaps best known for his luminous paintings of cakes, gumball machines and other everyday items. But as Cathleen McGuigan shows in her trenchant profile (“Wayne Thiebaud Is Not a Pop Artist,”), his still-growing body of work has underappreciated range and untold depths, encompassing an old masters virtuosity as well as a surprising emotional resonance.“I think the great treat for any reporter who covers culture is to meet and talk with some of these fantastic figures in the arts in America,” she says of her encounter with Thiebaud.
A journalist in New York City who last wrote for Smithsonian about the painter Alexis Rockman, Cathleen is delighted to report that Thiebaud, despite his renown, is down-to-earth. Maybe that’s because he has had time to get used to being famous. He is 90. “He’s very real,” she says.
Terence Monmaney is the executive editor.