Was photography invented in Brazil? Possibly, according to the story of Hercule Florence, a tireless inventor and adventurer who pioneered an early form of photography in the 1830s. More likely, photography was invented simultaneously in many places, but Florence's Herzogian story of entrepreneurial tenacity and Amazonian exploration gone awry is largely absent from the more familiar narratives of European figures attempting to fix light and shadow.
It is always a problem to know what an image "means." I like this still, taken from my film Welfare, of three people sitting on a bench at a welfare center in New York in 1973. I find it funny but I cannot explain why. Maybe because of the asymmetry of the three hats, balanced by the pointed one?
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg has curated a new Getty Images stock photo collection, branded Lean In, the same title as her recent advice tome for the working gal. The book speaks primarily to wealthy, white, straight working mothers, whom she encourages to embrace the patriarchal system of career advancement rather than advocating deeper systemic change.
In May 2011, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld an order to cut the prison population in California, on the grounds that overcrowding resulted in inadequate health care conditions and preventable deaths. The majority ruling for the case, Brown v. Plata, was penned by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who took the unorthodox step of including in the appendix three photographs of prison conditions.
In a Hamburg hotel room recently I was watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. The image quality was remarkably sharp. Watching it was like performing an act of forensic analysis. I had the impression of peering through an invisible space, one that was somehow sealed into the image itself.
In November 1924 in Mexico City, a brief meeting took place between four remarkable—and remarkably different— people. Given the odd symmetry of their circumstances, it makes sense to introduce these two couples as if they were participants in a friendly set of mixed doubles.
It's 1940. A young man dressed in a kimono stands against a white wall. His lips are smeared with lipstick and he may or may not be wearing rouge (the photo is black-and-white). On the back, in light pencil, is written "In the Chinese House." Why Chinese?
Last June I agreed to be "the other half" of the first public talk by designer Margaret Howell in the forty-or-so years she's been in business. Knowing that chronic nerves had kept Margaret silent all those years, I felt responsible for ensuring that her vocal debut would go smoothly.
I was wandering through the Museum of Modern Art several years ago, dodging tourists and suffering the usual museum-going misery, when I stumbled upon a massive print of Stuart Klipper's Swell. A smaller version hangs in my apartment now, and after hours of couch study I can say that it's "about" vastness and intimacy, stillness and motion.
I love it when a single image can very simply articulate the otherwise abstract. This photograph of Victoria Beckham by one of W's most iconic photographers, Juergen Teller, represents the perfect blend of art, commerce, and celebrity. For me, that is so much of what photography is about.
The jumping man is Duncan McKenzie, an English football star in the 1970s and also one of my all-time favorite players. Duncan was famed for some unorthodox party tricks, including throwing a golf ball the length of a football pitch (approximately 110 yards) and hurdling a Mini (seen here).
Early last December, Thomas Demand's studio of twelve years, next to the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, was bulldozed. Demand had known that sooner or later this day would come— the building's prime location made it vulnerable to developers—but it marked the end of an era for the German artist.
From the pictorial magazines that shaped a legacy of photojournalism to the avant-garde postwar photo clubs that transformed the medium, the layered narratives of photography in São Paulo reflect the city's cosmopolitan spirit. It is difficult to conceive of photography in São Paulo without Militão Augusto de Azevedo.
In the 1830s, an adventurer and inventor named Hercule Florence sought to score the Amazon's abundant birdsong. When attempting to print his peculiar manuscript about nature's sound archive, he also invented an early form of photography.
Photography collectives with diverse styles and philosophies are transforming São Paulo's media landscape through their documentation of last year's massive street protests and by exploring everyday life in the megalopolis. In June 2013, mass demonstrations rocked Brazil.
Since the nineteenth century, photographers have used the book form to portray São Paulo's environs. Recent titles continue this tradition by deploying a range of approaches, from the typological to the sculptural. Within cities like São Paulo there exist countless worlds that can be peeled away, layer by layer, to reveal hidden lives.
A new network of independent exhibition venues, residencies, and galleries has emerged in São Paulo, reshaping the landscape for photographers. "Only now do I understand how this place works—you start to feel it with your body," says Fernanda Brenner, founder and director of Pivô, a gallery and artist residency that opened a year ago.
Since returning to São Paulo in 1997 after studies in Germany, Caio Reisewitz has won an international reputation as one of Brazil's most significant photographers. His admiration for members of the Düsseldorf School such as Thomas Struth, Candida Höfer, and Andreas Gursky is evident in the meticulous accuracy of his monumental color photographs, yet his concentration on the landscape and architecture of Brazil lends his work a distinctive and immediately recognizable character.
The photographs of Geraldo de Barros do not represent an exact mirror image of the city of São Paulo, yet they do echo, as few others have, the vertiginous growth of the metropolis after 1945. The repeated insertion of shafts of light superimposed in his Fotoformas seems to reflect the constant movement of bodies and the accelerated pace that began to characterize the city in modern times.
Since the early eighteenth century, Afro-Brazilian performance groups known as Maracatu have descended onto the streets of Recife and other cities in the interior of Brazil's northeastern state of Pernambuco during Carnival and other festivals.
Hudinilson Urbano Jr. was an extraordinary figure in the cultural and artistic milieu of São Paulo. He studied art at Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado (FAAP) in São Paulo but was quickly forced to leave when his father discovered that he was studying art, not industrial design.
It is still unclear what Oscar Niemeyer's death, in 2012, will mean for Brazilian architecture, or, more broadly, Brazilian culture. For many, the architect—who gained fame for his exuberant work, anachronistic Communist views, and ever-controversial functionalist projects— had died some time ago.
Personal and public chronologies intertwine in Educação para adultos (Education for adults), a collection of sixty educational posters presented as an enormous grid. Featuring a glossary of words and images, the project is the result of Jonathas de Andrade's desire to recover utopian and democratic meanings erased from Brazilian society during the years of military dictatorship between 1964 and 1985.
In the shadow of the Brazilian military dictatorship, Regina Silveira pursued an elusive art, by necessity and by design. Absence and isolation, illusion and distortion were not only promising artistic strategies but also richly meaningful metaphors in an era of severe political repression.
"My work is not constituted by series but exposed sets," Sofia Borges commented in a recent interview. Borges freely mixes her incongruous image sets—from those taken inside natural history museums in São Paulo and Paris to those from the domestic sphere, including a portrait of her sister—to explore the mechanics of image types.
On one of the hottest days of the Brazilian summer last February, I sat with Claudia Andujar in her apartment to talk about her remarkable life and career in photography. Claudia, now eighty-three, has lived in São Paulo since the mid-1950s, but the story of how she came to live in Brazil parallels some of the tragedies of the twentieth century.
Unmasked Slide, São Paulo Biennial Archive, 1958-59
Founded in 1951, the São Paulo Biennial has cemented its place as a major global biannual art event; only the Venice Biennale, the model for São Paulo, has been around longer. The exhibition includes hundreds—some years even thousands—of objects, encompassing a wide range of mediums and filling the multiple sinuous levels of the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion, an elegant Oscar Niemeyer building located in São Paulo's enormous Ibirapuera park, a verdant oasis that is home to a number of the city's major museums.