donderdag 9 februari 2012

El rectángulo en la mano Sergio Larrain (1931 - 2012) Latin American Photobook Photography

The photographer Sergio Larrain (1931 - 2012) passed away yesterday morning at his home in Chile. Born in Santiago, Chile, in 1931, Sergio Larrain studied music and forestry before discovering photography in 1949 during a trip to Europe and the Middle East. He joined the staff of the Brazilian magazine O Cruzeiro before finding work at the MoMA in New York.

In 1958, a grant from the British Council enabled him to make an eight-month study of large British cities. (Pictures from the study were published as London in 1998). The same year, Henri-Cartier Bresson, after seeing Larrain’s street scenes and portraits of children, invited the Chilean to Paris, where he stayed and worked for two years.
He got involved with Magnum in 1959 and became a member in 1961, the same year he photographed the poet Pablo Neruda’s house. In 1966 the photographs were published in a book, Una Casa en la arena, accompanied by a text from Neruda.
Before his return to Chile in 1963 and with the encoura gement of the Brazilian poet Tiago de Melo, Larrain published his first book, El rectángulo en la mano, featuring a selection of photographs of children wandering the streets of large cities like Valparaiso and Santiago.
“I started in Valparaiso, roaming the hills night and day. The little girls walking down a staircase was the first magic photo that presented itself... A good photograph is born from a state of grace, and grace manifests itself once we are delivered of conventions, free like a child discovering reality.”
After meeting the Bolivian Oscar Ichazo, Larrain gave up photography to concentrate on his study of mystical Eastern cultures, writing and painting but rarely picking up his camera. He retired from social life to live in solitude and live a life that reflected his newfound philosophical principles.
Bernard Perrine
A growing appreciation of the photobook has inspired a flood of new scholarship and connoisseurship of the form--few as surprising and inspiring as The Latin American Photobook, the culmination of a four-year, cross-continental research effort led by Horacio Fernandez, author of the seminal volume Fotografia Pública. Compiled with the input of a committee of researchers, scholars, and photographers, including Marcelo Brodsky, Iatã Cannabrava, Pablo Ortiz Monasterio and Martin ParrThe Latin American Photobook presents 150 volumes from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and Venezuela. It begins with the 1920s and continues up to today, providing revelatory perspectives on the under-charted history of Latin American photography, and featuring work by great figures such as Claudia Andujar, Barbara Brändli, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Horacio Coppola, Paz Errázuriz,Graciela Iturbide, Sara Facio, Paolo Gasparini, Daniel González, Boris Kossoy, Sergio Larrain and many others. The book is divided into thematic sections such as "The City," "Conceptual Art and Photography" and "Photography and Literature," the latter a category uniquely important to Latin America. Fernandez's texts, exhaustively researched and richly illustrated, offer insight not only on each individual title and photographer, but on the multivalent social, political, and artistic histories of the region as well. This book is an unparalleled resource for those interested in Latin American photography or in discovering these heretofore unknown gems in the history of the photobook at large.

Sergio Larrain’s first book is the impossible to find El Rectangulo En La Manopublished in 1963 to accompany an exhibition in Santiago, Chile. It is a staple bound booklet of 12 folios (a folded sheet of paper) containing 17 images that are mostly from a series he shot of vagabond children in Chile. The copy that I have seen has the last page and image in the book cut out and a quote by Hass (Ernst?) is “whited out.” The owner of that copy thinks this was done by Larrain’s hand. A copy has been found recently and is reported to have the 17th photo still intact with no text “whited out.” The copy that is shown in Martin Parr’s Photobook (page 102) is the same that I have seen and Parr’s description states that it is a book of 16 images. This small rarity gets more mysterious all the time.

It is a wonderful book that teases you into the work of Larrain. You are left wanting more and more. Most would say that it suffers from poor reproductions as they are simple, rather dirty looking letterpress but it contains a great deal of charm in its lo-fi production. If you are ever in Paris, there is a copy at the Romeo Martinez library in the basement of the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie that you can request to see. Also I (5B4) have been told that MOMA in NYC has copy in their research library. Either would be worth the trip actually.

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