Arrangement in Green and Black, Portraits of the Photographer’s Mother

Beautiful project by Aline Smithson.

“This series had serendipitous beginnings. I found a small print of Whistler’s painting, Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter’s Mother, at a neighborhood garage sale. The same weekend, I found a leopard coat and hat, a 1950’s cat painting, and what looked like the exact chair from Whistler’s painting. That started me thinking about the idea of portraiture, the strong compositional relationships going on within Whistler’s painting, and the evocative nature of unassuming details. 

The series incorporates traditional photography techniques, yet becomes richer with the treatment of hand painting. It is my intent to have the viewer see the work in a historical context with the addition of color, and at the same time, experience Whistler’s simple, yet brilliant formula for the composition. 

My patient 85 year-old mother posed in over 20 ensembles, but unfortunately passed away before seeing the finished series. I am grateful for her sense of humor and the time this series allowed us to be together.”

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Growing up on the outskirts of Hollywood, photographer Aline Smithson was constantly aware of the celebrity culture roaring along one city over. 

Influenced by the snazzy publicity shots Hollywood churned out in the 1940s and 50s, Aline decided to create her own series of modern portraits with a vintage twist. 

Modern Portraits Shot in the Style of 1950s Celebrity Photos

via The New Yorker

Vera - Self Portrait
Waste Not, Want Not

Years ago an estheticians told me I had “thin skin” which basically translates into “you are going to have lots of wrinkles.” Oh joy, oh bliss! In the last couple of days I’m reminded of my “thin skin.” I’ve been fortunate enough to have my series “Sue and Winnie” featured on “feature shoot”, “Flavourwire”, and “The Daily Mail.” And I’ve been contacted by Aline Smithson from LENSCRATCH asking to share the work on her site at some point. All very exciting! But now that my work is out there, I need to work on getting a thick skin. As with most things, some like it and others don’t.

Other news this week is from my friend Oliva Johnston who has received good news. Her portrait “14 (justin)” has been selected to be a part of the Portrait: Image & Identity show at Black Box Gallery in Portland, Oregon. You can see her work here. Congrats Olivia :-) Also, if you are in Ottawa don’t forget to stop by SPAO to see Stephan Gaydos show Great Lakes Project: Observations and Appropriations. It’s up til January 30th.


A former fashion editor for Vogue Patterns decided to take a classic – the famous 19th-century painting by James McNeill Whistler’s “Arrangement in Grey and Black Portrait of the Artist’s Mother” – into her own hands. The photographer, Aline Smithson, got her own mother (and dog) to pose for these portraits. More amazing, humorous photos here:


Whistler’s Mother Gets a Makeover

Aline Smithson loves garage sales. When a single weekend of scavenging yielded a print of the famous 19th-century painting by James McNeill Whistler’s “Arrangement in Grey and Black Portrait of the Artist’s Mother,” a leopard coat and hat, a 1950s cat painting, and a chair just like the one in Whistler’s painting, something clicked. Her years of art education, fashion editing, and honing her darkroom skills, plus her sense of nostalgia, love of family, and wacky sense of humor all came together to produce what Smithson calls “the series that put me on the map.”

Over a period of two years, her mother, who was in her mid-80s, sat erect in the “Whistler chair,” presenting her left profile and a perfect deadpan expression in front of Smithson’s lime green garage door for 20 versions of “Arrangement in Green and Black, Portraits of the Photographer’s Mother.” Instead of Anna Whistler’s voluminous black Victorian dress and white lace cap, Katrine Kleihauer Smithson is decked out in get-ups such as a grass skirt and a safari suit. Smithson scoured thrift stores and eBay for costumes and bad paintings with matching themes.

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People I Don’t Know #7
Aline Smithson

I continue to be fascinated with found photographs. For 25 years, I have collected photographs found on the ground. Recently I have been drawn to more formal portraits culled from dusty cardboard boxes in thrift stores or ratty suitcases at flea markets. There in an innate sadness connected to these photographs. Who are they? What are their stories? How did these photographs end up unloved, not with their families, discarded?