Calavera Collection | PART TWO

Here are two calavera portraits: two women who went further than most to create a transformative appearance for their Day of the Dead celebration.

First, we meet Donika in a flowered headpiece of pink and scarlet roses. She was gleaming with silver-colored foundation makeup and jewel-toned accent details in her face paint. Along with her salt and pepper colored wig, she cast an unearthly glow.

Portrait of Donika in Calavera makeup and costume

Calavera: Donika

Then we met the grand dame of Dia de los Muertos: “La Muerte,” as depicted by a celebrant named Mariah. Her blood red costume was inspired by the character in the 2014 animated film, The Book of Life. In it, La Muerte is queen of the dead who is remembered by the living; which is based on the Mexican icon: La Catrina. Mariah and her friend created an elaborate enormous hat that was embellished with pink ostrich feathers, dozens of electrically lit LED candles encircling the brim, and dangling skeletons that remind people of their mortality. The two friends labored on the elegant costume for several months; the gown features several hundred hand-sewn fabric marigold flowers along with a matching bouquet.

La Catrina, or Santisima Muerte, or Holy Death, is for many, the quintessential image of Death in Mexico and the Southwestern United States.  She is a female folk saint who is associated with protection, healing and safe delivery to the afterlife by her Catholic devotees. Her enormous broad hat and elegant dress symbolize a cultured, wealthy woman who, as a skeleton, reminds everyone that death comes for everyone, rich or poor. Everyone is equal in the end.

Portrait of Mariah as a Calavera named LaMuerte

Calavera: Mariah as “La Muerte”


I was mostly pleased with these two photographs, given the conditions where I found my subjects and the backgrounds behind them. In post process development, I used a field blur filter to enhance the central focus of the portraits on the costumery and makeup. The main subjects were masked off while the softening was selectively applied to areas in the background.  Overall, I think the mild enhancements improved the final images.

Is there a filter that you regularly rely on in your post processing? What is it and what are the scenarios that make it worthwhile for use in developing your images?

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