Portuguese Photography & 100 Years Leica

The site Público has a story, "Portuguese photography featured prominently in the exhibition celebrating 100 years of Leica" (in Portuguese). It talks about Portuguese photographers such as Gérard Castello-Lopes, Victor Palla, Varela Pécurto, Edward Harrington Sena, Sena da Silva and Fernando Taborda of the 1950s and 1960s - many of which shot with a Leica. Follow along as Hans-Michael Koetzle (pictured above) talks about some of the history involved. A rather interesting read!

Translation into English (via Google):

The birth of the Leica in 1914, is one of the landmarks in the history of photography. The German brand will celebrate the jubilee with a major exhibition opening in October. Images Nozolino Paul and a group of photographers from the 1950s form the great Portuguese embassy in Hamburg. The Museu do Chiado then try to bring the show to Portugal.

When, in 2010, Hans-Michael Koetzle saw the Battle of Shadows exhibition in Cuenca, Spain, gaped. Walked blown from one side to the other in the House Zavala room to ask, "Who are these photographers?" "Where did" The Commissioner Emilia Tavares, the Chiado Museum, was there to answer it?. And told him that they were Portuguese and had photographed mainly in the 50s and 60s. They were called Gérard Castello-Lopes, Victor Palla, Varela Pécurto, Edward Harrington Sena, Sena da Silva, Fernando Taborda.

On this day, the German journalist and researcher specializing in the history and theory of photography fell in love with those pictures and got one more question in mind: "They will have been made with [cameras] Leica?" Some yes, others no. But this number was also not important when, late last year, decided to travel to Portugal looking for more photographs of that period to include in the great Jubilee Exhibition that Leica is preparing for this year. In Lisbon, Koetzle, who was director of the magazine Leica for years and has extensive published work, confirmed his instinct when he saw direct evidence of some of the photographers Battle of Shadows. Chose about 30 pictures of that used Leica cameras and discovered in wonder, the work of a very dedicated to the mythical German brand amateur, Jorge Silva Araújo, who had more than just a runway, an article published in the Leica in the 50s. In the hundred years from the invention of the camera that revolutionized photography and the way we see the world through it, Portugal is one of the countries featured prominently.

Organising an exhibition Leica Jubilee - perhaps the most iconic photographic camera of all - is a huge challenge. Where to begin?

At first, in 1914, the year that Oskar Barnack built his first camera. We realize that from this date the world of photography has changed. And we asked ourselves: "Why not show the entire history of twentieth-century photography in an exhibition? Why not try to show how the system Leica changed the way we see and understand the world? "The good thing about this is that the starting point is a truly international exhibition. I imagined how it would be fantastic to pair different cultures, different approaches, different generations, situations and moments in history. The Leica was always facing a camera to capture the history, people and life. There is a studio camera. It is to go outside and capture life. And the idea is to put it all together. Of course I made a list of what I find interesting. And to give you an example that appears in this relationship, there are several Portuguese photographers.

I was impressed by an exhibition I saw in Cuenca [Battle of Shadows, PHotoEspaña 2010]. Those pictures were a revelation to me, I got a great catalog of this exhibition and I was always thinking: "Can be Leica. Leica can be. "Contacted the curator [Emilia Tavares] and asked him for help to confirm this detail. She agreed and from more than a dozen photographers represented, at least five have used Leicas. This means that we have the Portuguese photography on display, particularly the 1950s and 1960s, which were very strong decades. Today is also strong, but I was impressed with the quality of what was done in those two decades.

He was so surprised?

Yes, and I was also amazed at how, in the center of Europe, we knew so little about this niche. I think the Jubilee Exhibition Leica will be an extraordinary opportunity to meet a group of Portuguese photographers with a huge talent. There will also Spanish, Italian ... but the Portuguese will be important, given the almost total ignorance of its work internationally. We knew nothing about them and will be an important part of the exhibition that will be launched in Hamburg. I've done part of the selection of images. We have wonderful photographs. And with the help of Emilia, discovered new material photographer Jorge Silva Araújo. Opened envelopes that were untouched and we have found is very good. He was a master printing, proofs are amazing and despite being amateur one could see he loved what he was doing in the picture. We found that was very well informed about the best books and photography magazines of the time and also wanted to make a contribution.

And what time are these photos?

The best are from the 1950s. We have also seen pictures of the 1960s, but the best ones are 50s. We will also have contemporary photography, with photos of Paul Nozolino.

How big will the exposure in terms of images?

We will have between 400 and 500 photos. Let's start in 1914, Oskar Barnack because soon began shooting with her first camera. We will go through the entire century and there will be sections of countries such as Portugal. There will be about 30 works by Portuguese photographers. We will have about a hundred authors around the world. But do not bother with geographic proportions.

As will be divided?

For aesthetic approaches. For example, after World War II was humanistic photography in France, neo-realist photography in Italy, new subjectivism in Germany and a photograph of the next French humanist tradition in Portugal. And the same thing in Spain. This gives a mixture of different aesthetic in different geographies. Obviously we photojournalism before and after World War II. The avant-garde period. The photo agencies 1950s. The culture of photobooks. The color of the 1970s and 1980s. The fashion. And contemporary photography. Are about 14 "chapters", which will also fit the film.

What was the main revolution that brought the Leica camera and photography?

The first chamber was designed in 1914, but World War I has not been possible to produce it. And only in 1925 that is the first Leica was launched. It was small, much smaller than the chambers existed. Most cameras used photojournalists glass negatives. After shooting had to change the negative - there was no decisive moment. The Leica was fast and had 36 images available. Functioned as an extension of the arms and it was possible to have it always at hand to shoot anytime, somewhat similar to what is done today with smartphones. The Leica was not the first to use 35mm film. But the big difference is that the first time a company has been able to make a camera that was a perfect product.

The company had a great experience because it was born of the optical Leitz, who made microscopes. The manufacture of these instruments had to be very, very accurate. Knowledge that was brought to this small camera, pinnacle of technology. The lens was perfect, the negative was greater, the features were very precise. Was very appropriate to the hands could hold it without shaking. And was taken to capture the short distance. With Leica, all the way to capture the world has changed. The photographers have become faster, closer to the subject and could work on sequences of 36 elements - if they lost a decisive moment, could quickly find another, and another, and another. Began to be possible to experience.

Means that the main advantage of the Leica "boiled down" to the effectiveness with which responded to a photographic culture that demanded other tools ...

Yes, it was an extraordinarily well designed object. When speaking at the birth of this camera, it must be remembered that they lived in the time of the Bauhaus, which was governed according to the principle "less is more". And that's what Oskar Barnack made. He was not a member of the Bauhaus, but had the spirit to do something that used the minimum of what was needed and nothing more. This spirit resulted in a subject so purist, so well designed that made lasted until today. The Leica is like the Porsche - it's always the same, with some changes.

But most important is that within a very well designed object we have a camera that works very well and is able to capture the world in its various aspects. 1925 was the year that Eseinstein Battleship Potemkin premiered in the city of Mannheim emerged photography exhibitions with different documentary approaches, the new objectivity. It was a year rich visually and Oskar Barnack responded with the launch of Leica.

Clear that professional photographers have some resistance. Found similar to the Leica cameras of play. But the amateurs began to discover its virtues. There were big names who sided early with it - Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alexsandr Rodchenko, László Moholy-Nagy and many avant-garde artists. There was another detail that impressed - one eye could always control what was happening around and when the moment arose ... click!

But what brought really new?

It is above all the possibility of viewing the report another way - through multiple images, not one. Came a new way to tell a story in sequence, in a much more ... cinematic form. Many amateurs - or, say, photographers who came from other professions - were delighted with this approach. In central Europe there were people very well trained to look in the 1920s, 1930. One of the most famous examples is that of Erich Salomon was a lawyer. Photographed with a negative Ermanox with small glass, it had a good optic. Salomon photographed in court during the proceedings but had to do so without being noticed. What do you mean he had to go constantly en-suite to replace the glass negatives of your machine, impractical task. Moved to Leica in 1932 and began offering the illustrated magazines of the time as the German Berliner Zeitung Illustrirte or French Vu, complete photographic coverage - a new way of doing things.

At the time there were good art directors in magazines such as Alexander Liberman, the Vu. Salomon photographed at night, parties, social events. But perhaps one of the most famous shooting with Leica have been Robert Capa that with David Seymour "Chim" and Gerda Taro covered the Spanish Civil War. Many say that this was the first war where photographers showed exactly what was going on, the first conflict where photographers were always very close to the events. Before, the only photographers caught what was left of the battles, destruction, dead people, bombing. But were not present when the battle raged.

Often the way to work with Leica meant that the photos did not turn out perfect, became blurred. But it gave them authenticity, dynamics. There is a good example of how this drama is shown with a photograph from 1932 that Capa took a political conference when a journalist resists an arrest. This registration is completely blurred and hardly notice anything in the picture, but at the same time is weird, has a lot of momentum and captures all the drama of the moment. Leica introduced a completely different way of seeing the world.

It is the time when the photograph is no longer frozen?

Completely. No longer frozen, no longer just staged. Life came to be on the picture for more ... naturally. Have had photographers trying to bring this new way of being in photography and Leica gave them the perfect tool. Worked well, it was silent, no flash needed. It was important to shoot in places where it was necessary to have these weapons - in courts, churches, cafes and night clubs.

And the Leica became famous immediately?

No. In 1925 there was no major reaction. That year were produced around 1000 cameras. Success came in 1927-1928. People like Rodchenko, the Bauhaus artists began to use it. Gisele Freund was another famous wearing it. When escaped the Nazis in 1933, went to France, where he worked as a photographer. There is a well-known story that shows how the recognition took some time. Freund had a job that involved making photographs at the National Library of France. When met, the director asked him: "What is that?" She: "It's my camera." He: "No! Not! We need someone professional! "She was at a flea market, bought a machine from old bellows with a Leica tripod and hid inside. They said to him that with that machine could already shoot. Freund took pictures with the Leica hidden.

It is possible to identify a "Leica style" in photography?

Yes.

How?

To shoot with Leica's need to be near the object. There are cameras to capture great distances. If you look at a picture with Roleiflex, for example, they are very composed from the center, very symmetrical. The first images of Henri Cartier-Bresson made with a 6x6 camera is a bit boring. With Leica dynamics there, there are different perspectives. The photograph on the Leica is defined by the boundaries of the frame. I had a strange experience a few times when I was flip through a magazine Vu. I came across a photograph in double page on the Spanish Civil War and thought "It's amazing! You must be a picture taken with Leica. You are so close to the ground, stood a head, a shoulder. "Went looking for credit and have not found soon. But then there discovered it: it was a picture of the Henri Cartier-Bresson. When did the research for this exhibition, I saw about ten thousand photobooks. I sat every evening and the main exercise was to see if those pictures were made with Leica. At the exhibition there will be many names that are nothing familiar. Not only will the cartier-bressons.

Found some unknown work internationally that has particularly dazzled?

Yes, many. In particular, a photographer called Richard Fleishhut. Taking photographs in boats to famous people. In September 1939, the SS was Fleishhut Columbus near the port of Santa Cruz, Latin America. World War II began and the British closed the port and shipping in the Atlantic was very controlled. The captain tried to run for two months but failed. Until the Germans decided to sink the ship. All persons have left the SS Columbus in small boats and then saw an explosion. He photographed all of these events with a Leica, an impossible story to capture with a camera glass negatives. Here is everything: the wait, the drama, movement, clumsiness of people arriving in boats, the explosion and the boat to sink. This sequence is extraordinary and we will show it.

And Silva Araújo? How surprised?

You know, in the article I found it in a magazine Leica '50s, I was not very impressed. Portugal was a very cliche ... but when I took the negative and the evidence ... then yes, I was very impressed. But there are other examples that nobody knows outside Portugal, like Victor Palla. As I said, I was very impressed with the display of Cuenca and knew from there that this moment would be the beginning of my love affair with the Portuguese photography. It was because of what I saw that I decided to come to Portugal. For an exhibition of this scope, there would be many commissioners to travel to a country because of 30 photographs.

Apparently, it seems it was worth the trip ...

Absolutely. When I saw the evidence of Silva Araújo, I knew that the trip was well worth it - it's the best there is. And so I asked Emily to do some research for a text of the catalog. The work of Silva Araújo be contained in this book will be about 400 pages. Will be a reference book in relation to the photographic work done with Leicas.

Is there any country where you isolate a particular cult in relation to Leica?

In France, especially because of the tradition of Cartier-Bresson. In Russia, because of the work of Rodchenko. But the best compliment you can make a camera is to copy it immediately and the Russians copied it. And also in Japan, a country where the brand is also very strong. We obviously the U.S. with the work of Alfred Eisenstaedt, Life magazine and the whole tradition of street photography from the 60s, with Garry Winogrand, Joel Meyerowitz. There are also photographers from Associated Press, which until the 1950s were forced to use speedgraphic chambers that had a much slower and complicated handling.

There will be many vintage events in the exhibition?

Yes, we have tried as many vintage races. But it is impossible to have all. Erich Solomon, for example, who was killed in Auschwitz, what remains of his work are about five thousand negatives. We had to make new tests. Anyway, what we come to will always show through the best possible impression. There will be magazines, photo books, movies of the 20s ... I'm thinking also set up a room without any visual element where you just hear the click of Leica. This detail is very important in these chambers. The technical brand can immediately realize that it works well putting your ear near the camera and pressing the shutter.

The minimalist sound of the Leica could almost be patented ...

It's true. Only the sound is a part of the love relationship with the brand. There are few objects in the world that attract so much love just because of a detail like this. Maybe it's because of the name also comes from Leica and Leitz camera. It is fantastic. It's feminine and sexy in any way. The camera bodies were always curved, soft, fit perfectly in the hands. Contax, for example, was no longer so. It was rude, heavy. And then there are so many photographers who have made self-portraits with them. The Silva Araújo also has a. Often there are mirrors and they show are proud to have her hands. Other times, there are games to try to hide it. The exhibition also crosses these aspects, where emotion and performance appear.

Similar to what happened with these Portuguese photographers 50s, who have been given special attention in recent years, believes that there is still much to discover (or redescobir) photography in the mid-twentieth century?

Yes, for sure. We are only at the beginning.

In the research for this exhibition was surprised with some history related to Leica?

(Silence) Well, one of the things that impressed me most has to do with the history of the brand. Especially one that relates to the period which lasted fascism in Germany. The purpose of this subject read a book by a Jewish rabbi who lives in London, Frank Dabba Smith, on the profile of the Leitz family was very honest and against the existing system. Helped many Jews company technicians to leave Germany. This aspect made me particularly happy. Even before the war, the Leitz family had a great social commitment. The way they worked and how they treated workers is extraordinary. It is a lesson that we can receive today. Shows that, after all, not everything boils down to capitalism and making money. The key is to treat workers well. Today, they call them "human resources", but no one really knows what this means. Ernest Leitz introduced social security, built houses. And when the great crisis came in 1924 to launch the reason Leica was definitely retain workers. It was not because he had a particular interest in photography. What we wanted was to keep between three and five thousand workers. They wanted to keep them. It is this spirit of entrepreneurship that we need today. At the time, it was much easier to close the factory and put everyone on the street. Was that the economy was saying. But there was a backlash, an idea of ​​how to move on launching a new product, a new tool to do something in a way that had never been done.

The agency Magnum and Leica have always maintained a very close relationship. How the test and photojournalism have been influenced by this route side by side?

The Magnum has brought some new things to photojournalism - the first of which was cooperative, working together. Then there was the whole idea of the strength of the founding members, and humanistic side - were not simply paparazzi.

Were leftists, revolutionaries had an idea of ​​what was to inform the picture. But it was something more than inform - had an aesthetic sense linked to the image in everything they did. That's why today we see photographs of Magnum in museums all that is, is not just photojournalism. There is always something more, starting with the photograph The Falling Soldier by Robert Capa, which is extraordinary. The entire body of work Henri Cartier-Bresson, the work of "Chim" and that came after: René Burri, Werner Bischof ... all contributed to an ideal photographic information combined with an attitude and personal styles. And that is the most emblematic.

But think Leica helped him get to this approach?

Almost all had this tool to tell stories, which helped form a specific way to show the reality. It's a bit like Bob Dylan and acoustic guitar - is a pair that matches perfectly.

Inside Magnum, Henri Cartier-Bresson is the most resounding name of a relationship between the photographer and his equipment that can be called love. Will be one of the protagonists of jubilee?

Not so much because his work is already well known. For me, at Cartier-Bresson's interesting is that it is the first to say that with that camera could do something like art. It also emphasized that his book Images a la sauvette, which came out in 1952, had a huge impact on other photographers, including Portuguese. I'll wear Cartier-Bresson as a starting point for other things that have happened and nothing else.

There are some other photographers who like to nominate as an example of such a passionate relationship with your camera?

Bruce Davidson, whose work on the black community in the U.S. in the 1960s was an important milestone. It's the kind of long-term project that has great weight. Not only is Alabama going to shoot the Martin Luther King, and come away. Davidson photographed this community for years and years. René Burri photographed the Germans for 20 years. Bruno Barbi Italians. Robert Frank Americans. Sergio Larrain Latin America ... All these projects form a long-term culture of different image. Not only was take a good photo and go. It was necessary to follow something for the rest of his life. There are still captured by Susan Meiselas Nicaragua. Anders Petersen at Café Lehmitz. Christer Strömholm in Paris, Ed van der Elsken ... all with Leica, with a strong relation to what they were doing. Strömholm told me that before you start shooting at transvestite bars of Paris, came there and put the camera on the counter doing nothing more. For days did the same thing until they asked him "What is it?" "It's my camera." "She does not want to take photographs?" "Yes, if you let me." It was like entering a cage with tigers all kindness. Strömholm maintained contact with those people for the rest of his life.

Leica able to keep up in an increasingly dematerialized digital and photographic world?

Since photography is committed to be safe. It is a product of the masses, but it has enough to continue to keep this living system demand.