Friday, June 7, 2013

Las Mujeres de Alina Vargas

I posted about Pinup de pura cepa, the exhibit by Dominican photographer Alina Vargas-Afansieva ages ago. The exhibit was great and I later had lunch with Alina to tell her how much I love her work but also to pick her brain. I turned that into an article for and it went up last week.
That beauty is the photographer herself

I'm so happy to help Alina get exposure for her work, even if her studio is in Santo Domingo. She shoots ordinary women like pinups from the 1940s and 50s which isn't anything new stateside but I love that she brought that experience to the Dominican Republic. More importantly, she transplanted the experience and made it distinctly Dominican, using cultural motifs. She also wanted to celebrate the beauty of Dominican women in all the shades they come in, something that's still uncommon there and here, too, if we're being honest. Because skin color is a fraught issue even in a country where only a small minority looks like what we'd consider white here in the United States but are held up as an ideal of beauty anyway.

I lived in Santo Domingo for five months doing a study abroad program and the skin color issue was, at least for me, in the air as much as merengue and the smoke from motoconchos. Men ignored me if I went out with a white friend. Just the very fact that Dominicans (and other Latinos, too) often call each other by their perceived skin tone was an adjustment. It isn't meant to be offensive and it makes sense if you think about it. It's an obvious way to identify someone, especially someone you don't know. But it still made me very conscious of the way I looked to other people whereas when I'm here in New York, I don't think about whether I'm light or dark skinned. I know people just see me as black (I'm of Latina descent and don't "look" it, but that's a different post).

I say all that to say that Alina's work, while it's cute and glamorous, it's also important. It's important because, like she says in our interview, because she depicts women with dark skin and unstraightened hair as beautiful. And she shows aspects of Dominican culture that she says people forget or want to forget, like Santeria (I love her photo of La Santera, above) and its distinctly African roots. When we had lunch she said it's been her experience that Dominicans are looking for the next, hottest thing without holding on to what's uniquely theirs. I wish her the best of luck with her work at the studio.

Read our interview and be sure to follow LadyBug Pin-up on Facebook to see more Alina's work.


  1. Beautiful pics. What a wonderful way to celebrate the culture and each woman's individual beauty.

  2. nice post.. we can talk and write for years about Dominican's way to see skin color and curly hair and it can be offensive to other Latinos and black Americans )but it another post) thanks for sharing

  3. I totally agree with Alina's comments that "All women are beautiful." She's an amazing photographer! :-)

  4. I love her style of photography!! Very girlie and culturally telling.

  5. BB finds this an artform that's fun yet very telling at the same time. Congrats on your article and hoping Alina finds much success. BB2U

  6. I LOVE these shots and the article. Great job!

  7. This is awesome! I'm heading to Latina Magazine to read your article!

  8. How beautiful amor, Congrats Latinas rock!
    send your email so I can send your one card reading.


  9. Beautiful pictures and congrats on the article! How exciting!


Thanks so much for your comments!