At the beginning of the 1940s, during the Second World War, Brazil was a destination of choice for thousands of emigrants. The country went through a unique modernisation process affecting all sectors of Brazilian society. The exhibition explores this extraordinary transformation through the eyes of four photographers with very different styles and sensibilities. Marcel Gautherot (1910-1996) was a Parisian from a working class background who greatly admired Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe’s work ; he had access to Brasília as early as 1958, thanks to his friendship with Oscar Niemeyer. Hans Gunter Flieg (1923) fled nazism as a German Jew and came to Brazil in 1939 where he specialised in photographing industries.
Thomas Farkas (1924-2011), a Hungarian who emigrated to Brazil, is probably the most well-known of these four photographers, and the most avant-garde of this group since he was interested in photography as a work of art from a very young age. Finally, José Medeiros (1921-1990), a photojournalist who was born in a poor State with very little cultural tradition, had learnt photography by working with the Carioca newspapers. He was attentive to the changes and ruptures in all the social classes.
This exhibition allows the perception of a moment in history : the untouched Amazonia, the beaches and daily life in Rio de Janeiro, as well as the carnival, football, African religions and their initiation rituals, river ports and the Northern fishermen, industries and factories, baroque churches, Indian tribes, mechanical machinery, popular festivals, modernist buildings and Brasília, the new capital. These wideranging themes sketch a portrait of Brazil during a particular era that ended with the beginning of the military dictatorship in 1964. Through the lens of these four artists whose practices and origins were so diverse, we can also anticipate notions of alterity and cosmopolitism that define our world today.
“Modernities: Brazilian Photography (1940-1964)”
May 6 – July 26 2015
Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian -Délégation en France
39 bd de la Tour Maubourg 75007 Paris
News source and text: Gulbenkian Foundation