The Photo Studio That Immortalized Argentina’s Popular Culture
During an era of political upheaval, a portrait session at Foto Estudio Luisita, run by sisters Luisa and Chela Escarria, was a rite of passage for actors, dancers, pioneering trans performers—and the occasional adorned dog.
Foto Estudio Luisita opened its doors in Buenos Aires in 1958, after Luisa Escarria moved to Argentina’s capital from Colombia with her mother and aunt, escaping La Violencia. This devastating armed conflict scourged her home country for nearly two decades. Luisa’s sister, Chela Escarria, who also played an integral role in the studio, had arrived the year before. Introduced to photography at a young age, Luisita and Chela soon ran a successful studio out of their small home on Avenida Corrientes. In the two decades that followed, being photographed their the studio became a rite of passage for the makers of the golden age of theatrical revue, including actors, dancers, comedians, singers, contortionists, sex symbols, and the occasional prize-winning canary or crowned adorned dog.
If the studio continued to thrive through the political and economic upheavals that marked Argentina during the 1970s and ’80s, the advent of the digital age led to its closure in 2009. That same year, cinematographer Sol Miraglia, now the custodian of the studio’s archive, met the sisters and quickly became a presence in their lives. Over the next ten years, Miraglia sorted through roughly five decades of material, which might have met a very different fate if not for her fortuitous intervention. In 2018, working with her partner, Hugo Manso, Miraglia directed the documentary Foto Estudio Luisita, which offers a glimpse of her time with the sisters and her experience assessing the forty thousand images in the archive.
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