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Valparaiso • Sergio Larrain • Magnum Photos
"The experimental Chilean photographer's iconic depictions of his homeland in the 1960s offer intimate insights into the artist’s inner life"

[See also: "Sergio Larrain obituary: Experimental Chilean photographer whose short career resulted in a string of inspirational images"
https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/feb/24/sergio-larrain

"Although he was photographically active for scarcely more than a decade and was the author of just four books (all of them now collectors' items), the stature and reputation of the Chilean photographer Sergio Larrain, who has died aged 80, continued to grow after he withdrew from the vibrant European world of street photography to live in a meditational retreat.

Born into a professional family in Santiago (his father was an architect), he began by studying music. At the age of 18, he went to the US and studied forestry at the University of California, Berkeley, before transferring to Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1954. He also travelled through Europe and the Middle East, taking a camera. When he returned home, he began freelancing for the Brazilian magazine O Cruzeiro with a heart-searing series on street children living on the banks of the Rio Mapuche. The Museum of Modern Art in New York acquired two images for its collection in 1956.

In 1958 Larrain obtained a grant from the British Council to undertake an eight-month reportage project on British cities. The book that resulted focused on London, with the swinging 60s just around the corner, capturing the ebb and flow of crowds on the streets and transport system. The work so impressed Henri Cartier-Bresson that he invited Larrain to join the Magnum agency that he had co-founded in 1948, with "Chim" Seymour, George Rodger and Robert Capa.

Larrain joined as an associate in 1959 and was set a mission impossible: to photograph the mafia boss Giuseppe Russo, wanted for multiple murder by Interpol. Larrain took the task seriously and spent months researching and photographing from Rome to Sicily, where he finally located Russo in Caltanissetta. He then spent a fortnight winning the trust of Russo's bodyguards before passing off his 35mm Leica as an artistic tourist's toy. The pictures of Russo were published in Life in the US and Paris Match in France, before being syndicated globally. In 1961 Larrain became a full member of the world's most famous photographic agency.

In 1963 he published El Rectángulo en la Mano (Rectangle in Hand). In 1966 Una Casa en la Arena (A House in the Sand) appeared, about Pablo Neruda's house on Isla Negra, with a text by the poet. Neruda also supplied the text for perhaps Larrain's most famous book, Valparaiso (1991), containing a striking image of two little girls running down a flight of stone steps, their white frocks and rectangular bobbed haircuts a microcosm of the stark geometry of black shadows and noonday sun.

Larrain recalled taking it "in a state of peace and utter serenity, just pursuing what at the time interested me most. Then, as if from nowhere, first one little girl appeared, shortly joined by another. It was more than perfect, it was a magical image." Agnes Sire, for 20 years desk editor of Magnum (Paris), described it as taken in "not so much a decisive moment as in the state of spirit that he called a state of grace".

Larrain was endlessly experimental. One afternoon in the 1950s, he was taking photographs outside Notre Dame in Paris and captured scenes between a couple which he only noticed when he developed the film. This provided the inspiration for Julio Cortázar's extraordinary 1959 story The Devil's Drool, which in turn was the basis for Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 film Blow-Up.

In 1968 Editions Rencontre published Chile, in which all but two of the pictures are Larrain's. It is the only book to use his work as illustration, rather than art. The rest of the books issued under his name, published throughout the 1990s primarily as exhibition catalogues, are reprises or re-edits of earlier ones. In 1999 the Valencia Institute of Modern Art held a Larrain retrospective which led to a huge resurgence of interest. This was something Larrain loathed, for by then he had chosen to find his state of grace through meditation.

In 1972 he had met the Bolivian mystic Oscar Ichazo and abandoned photography to study oriental religions, calligraphy and painting, and to practise and teach yoga. First at Ovalle, then moving still further and higher into the mountains to Tulahuén, Larrain led an increasingly isolated life – except in one sense. He became a copious letter-writer. John Morris, the former Magnum bureau chief, described his letters as "all ruminations on the sad state of the world and appeals to me to take action to improve it"."]
chile  photography  valparaíso  1950s  sergiolarraín  magnum  giusepperusso  islanegra  pabloneruda  juliocortázar  henricartier-bresson  robertcapa  georgerodger  chimseymour 
january 2017 by robertogreco
John Berger: ‘If I’m a storyteller it’s because I listen’ | Books | The Guardian
"After lunch we move into his study, a den of paintings, a place of light, its windows thrown wide, looking on to trees. He tries to make himself comfortable on the white sofa, an arthritic back giving him trouble. As a writer, Berger has that rare and wonderful gift of being able to make complex thoughts simple. He once said, in a BBC interview with Jeremy Isaacs, that he likes, in all his work, to follow the advice of the photographer Robert Capa: “When the picture is not good enough, go closer…” His eye for detail remains unrivalled and consistently surprising (think of his irresistible observation that cows walk as if they were wearing high heels). Reading him is like standing at a window – perhaps a bit like the window of this study – with no one blocking the view. “The way I observe comes naturally to me as a curious person – I’m like la vigie – the lookout guy on a boat who does small jobs, maybe such as shovelling stuff into a boiler, but I’m no navigator – absolutely the opposite. I wander around the boat, find odd places – the masts, the gunwale – and then simply look out at the ocean. Being aware of travelling has nothing to do with being a navigator.”"



"In 1944 he joined up, refusing a commission with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire light infantry, and became a lance corporal at a training camp. He preferred the company of working-class recruits, for whom he became a scribe, writing their letters home. In a sense, he has continued to do this all his life: telling other people’s stories lest they vanish. In a conversation with Susan Sontag, he once said: “A story is always a rescuing operation.” And he has also said (in The Seasons in Quincy): “If I’m a storyteller it’s because I listen. For me, a storyteller is like a passeur who gets contraband across a frontier.”"



"And what does he think about Brexit? He leans back on the sofa (we have now shifted from the overheated study into a cooler parlour, a sofa crawl in operation) and admits it has always been important to him to define himself as European. He then attempts to describe what he sees as the bigger picture: “It seems to me that we have to return, to recapitulate what globalisation meant, because it meant that capitalism, the world financial organisations, became speculative and ceased to be first and foremost productive, and politicians lost nearly all their power to take political decisions – I mean politicians in the traditional sense. Nations ceased to be what they were before.” In Meanwhile (the last essay in Landscapes) he notes that the word “horizon” has slipped out of view in political discourse. And he adds, returning to Brexit, that he voted with his feet long ago, moving to France.

We talk about what it is for a person to adopt a foreign country as home, and about how it is possible to love a landscape like a familiar face. For Berger, that face is the Haute-Savoie. “This is the landscape I lived in for decades [he left only after Beverly died; his son Yves still lives there with his family]. It matters to me because during that time, I worked there like a peasant. OK, don’t let’s exaggerate. I didn’t work as hard as they did but I worked pretty hard, doing exactly the same things as the peasants, working with them. This landscape was part of my energy, my body, my satisfaction and discomfort. I loved it not because it was a view – but because I participated in it.”

He explains: “The connection between the human condition and labour is frequently forgotten, and for me was always so important. At 16, I went down a coal mine in Derbyshire and spent a day on the coal face – just watching the miners. It had a profound effect.” What did it make you feel? “Respect,” he says quietly. “Just respect. There are two kinds. Respect to do with ceremony – what happens when you visit the House of Lords. And a completely different respect associated with danger.” He says: “This is not a prescription for others, but when I look back on my life I think it’s very significant I never went to a university. I refused to go. Lots of people were pushing me and I said, ‘No. I don’t want to’, because those years at university form a whole way of thinking.” And you feel free from that? “Yes.”"



"As he nudges closer to 90, Berger feels his own way of seeing has changed surprisingly little, although, he points out, technology has changed the way younger generations explore art. He admits, then, to his enthusiasm for texting: “I’ve been a fan for a long while because it’s like whispers – and with that goes intimacy, secrecy, playfulness…” But there is nothing fixed about the way he sees. He believes one never sees the same picture twice: “The second time I saw the Grünewald altarpiece was after a terrorist attack – it was the same painting yet I saw it differently.” The importance of certain painters has shifted too. He reveres Modigliani less, admires Velázquez more: “When one is young, one likes drama, excitation, bravura – Velázquez has none of this.”"



"But Berger’s greatest strength in old age is his ability to live in the present. “I cultivated this early on – and this is the paradox – because it was an escape from prescriptions, prophecies, consequences and causes.” The present moment is key to his thinking too. In Ways of Seeing, he suggests that paintings embody the present in which they were painted. Defining the secret of reading aloud well, he says it is “refusing to look ahead, to be in the moment”. And he says that a story puts its listener “in an eternal present”. He has also written about the circularity of time. Does he think that applies to an individual life? Is there, in old age, a way in which one starts to hold hands with one’s younger self?"
johnberger  art  seeing  listening  2016  observation  noticing  storytelling  writing  robertcapa  presence  migration  reading  marxism  globalization  capitalism  participation  labor  participatory  texting  intimacy  secrecy  playfulness 
october 2016 by robertogreco
A cache of photographic negatives taken by Robert Capa that was... (kottke.org)
"The negatives could change the way we regard Capa and his photos. There's even speculation that they may prove or disprove that he staged his most famous photo."
history  photography  war  robertcapa 
january 2008 by robertogreco

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