Sergio Larrain "Valparaiso."

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 Post subject: Sergio Larrain "Valparaiso."
Unread postPosted: Mon May 22, 2017 7:43 pm 
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New LVL member mOnOchrOme posted a recent note letting us know that Aperture recently brought out a new edition, in English, of Sergio Larrain's masterpiece Valparaiso.

I provided some background on Larrain in my LVL posting on the 2013 Aperture retrospective of his work, Sergio Larrain. The Chilean photographer was something of a shadowy figure during his lifetime. Although he was invited to work with Magnum, and Henri Cartier-Bresson was in the nature of a mentor to him, Larrain was not comfortable working on assignment. It was his self-described nature to be free, to take his time, to develop an undisturbed concentration for his subject(s). He was deeply committed to this path, both as a metier, and as a way of life. For much of his life he lived alone or with his young son in remote areas of Chile, explored yoga, zen and other metaphysical practices, and tried to set an example in his life and work for living in harmony with the earth.

Although he was born and raised in Santiago, Larrain will always be associated with Chile's coastal city of Valparaiso because of his deeply sensitive response to it as a subject for his photography. He returned to it at several key points in his life. The first edition of Valparaiso was published in softcovers in Paris by Editions Hazan in 1991 with 38 photographs in black and white and an essay by Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda. It was a long time in gestation, the opening image - a photograph of two young girls walking away from the photographer and apparently descending a staircase - was made in 1952. Larrain first started working with Neruda on a prospective text in 1963. The first edition sold out and has since become a costly collectors' item, commanding a thousand dollars or more when it becomes available in excellent condition.

In late 1993, Agnes Sire (Director, Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson) received a maquette from Larrain of an expanded edition, in English, of Valparaiso. This mock-up was assembled from photographs and text cut from a copy of the first edition, prints and copies of other photographs, and handwritten poems and mystic references including a guide to meditation. Larrain also sent the negatives and initial proof sheets. He hoped for a new book which would include photographs from his later forays into his beloved hillside seaport (the second edition includes 120 photographs), and which would integrate them with his views on steps the individual and society should take to preserve the city and, by extension, the world, from gradual extinction. Sire provided an essay for this new edition describing the development of both editions. Neruda's evocative essay provides a perfect setting for the images to follow.

Both editions are very much about Larrain's exploration of the city within the geometry of the 35mm frame. Particularly apparent is his sense of the three-dimensions of the picture field: his purposeful use of depth of field. His deliberate use of deep shadow, bright highlight and shapes extending out of the frame seem to extend the frame, in a sense extending his - and the viewers' - vision of the city to the world beyond.

Sergio Larrain, Valparaiso. Aperture Foundation, New York (2017). Hardcover, 207 pp., printed in Germany. List $55.00 (US).

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