photo: portrait


Hiking through a tea plantation, I passed a group of workers. Some noticed me curiously, others were too busy. This woman came straight over when she saw my camera, very self confident. “Photo, photo!” she said and pointed at herself, giving me orders without hesitating. With a wink in her eyes, though. But when I got ready to shoot, suddenly her confidence faded a little and revealed this sort of shy smile and a bit of very human insecurity of being put on the spot - although she did ask for it herself. It was a wonderful reminder that even the most convincing tough-playing facades can change in a matter of seconds. There’s a soft smiling human behind any attitude. I love that thought.

Lilia Skala, Photo by Atelier Manassé, Wien, 1930s. 

Lilia Skala (1896-1994) was an Austrian-American actress. Skala was born Lilia Sofer in Vienna. Her mother, Katharina Skala, was Catholic, and her father, Julius Sofer, was Jewish and worked as a manufacturers representative for the Waldes Koh-i-noor Company. She was one of the first women to graduate in architecture and engineering from the University of Dresden, before practicing architecture professionally in Vienna. In the late 1930s, she was forced to flee her Nazi-occupied homeland with her husband, Louis Erich Skala, and their two young sons. (Lilia and Erich adopted the non-Jewish sounding surname of Lilia’s mother.) Skala and her husband managed to escape (at different times) from Austria and eventually settled in the United States. (x