by EDER CHIODETTO
German Lorca is one of the main icons in the evolution that Brazil’s photography underwent as of the 1940s. During this period that historians began to call “late modernism,” the photographic language would experiment through the significant transformations engaged in by artists like him, Geraldo de Barros, Thomaz Farkas, and a few others.
Lorca was born in 1922, one hundred years after Brazil’s independence and one hundred days after the Modern Art Week held in São Paulo, in which photography did not participate as an artistic expression. It would take roughly 25 years for Lorca’s generation to lift Brazilian photography to the status of art in the late 1940s, as Oswald de Andrade advocated in Manifesto Pau-Brasil, inspired by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s Manifesto of Futurism. Oswald urges artists to think the world and representation in the field of art based on “new forms of industry, transport, aviation. Poles. Rails Gasometers. Laboratories and technical workshops. Voices and ticks of wires and waves and fulgurations. Stars familiarized with photographic negatives. The correspondent of physical surprise in art.”
If until the mid-1940s “photographic negatives” focused on the objectivity of the record and documentation, and not on the ludic power contained in the irradiation of light coming from stars, Lorca and his friends gathered around the Foto Cine Clube Bandeirante and cast the challenge of renewing possibilities in the photographic game.
This renewal targeted creating a language capable of representing in a more emphatic way the urban landscape of São Paulo, which was becoming modernized with skyscrapers, wide avenues, and a significant advancement in industrial activity, as well as incorporating the concepts that Dadaists and Surrealists came up with in previous decades in Europe. Concepts that Rubens Teixeira Scavone, photographer and critic close to Lorca’s group, summarized in one of their newsletters: “Reality, more often than not, becomes a mere pretext, a communicative vehicle, a passport to everything where an enclosed parcel of beauty exists.”
To perceive photography as a language that does not need to limit itself to report or endorse space-time could, at last, free it to research new semantic possibilities. This is how these late modernists thought and acted.
And this is also how Lorca created poetic and at the same time historical records of the city of São Paulo. Born in the neighborhood of Brás, part of his personal work was to register changes in the city’s urban landscape. In last May, after celebrating his 96th birthday, we invited Lorca to revisit some of the places where he created iconic images of the city. As proof that the passage of time does not surprise him, he took on the task of trying to photograph the city, in 2018, the way he used to see it almost seventy years ago. The result reconnects us with the conceptual and poetic lightheadedness of Lorca’s work. Seven decades later, the artist and his city meet again to celebrate the lyric and timeless power of photographic records. The political gesture of an artist like Lorca is to make us find the “enclosed parcels of beauty” where we could not imagine they would be resting.
This piece was first published at the second edition of SP-Arte Magazine, in August, 2018.
Eder Chiodetto is a curator specialized in photography
, those who followed him in action know why he is an icon
by Bruno Martins
52 years ago, German Lorca opened his studio in Vila Mariana, where he continues to work today alongside his sons J. Henrique and Fred Lorca. And there is where the 96-year-old photographer received the SP-Arte team to discuss this work. Considering the surprising energy with which he received us, paying homage to German by merely highlighting what he did in the past would be a waste of talent. Eder Chiodetto, curator of one of Lorca’s exhibitions and author of a photography book about him, as well as a longtime friend of the photographer, was also the person who came up with the idea of returning to places of some of his iconic photos and registering what these same angles would be in 2018. Among so many photographs and having to choose only five, he targeted nothing other than the nuances of the city of São Paulo, the muse of German’s work.
The first meeting point with German was at Marginal Pinheiros. The intention was to reproduce a photo taken in 1970 from the terrace of a skyscraper with a 360° view of the city. It was the first time he returned to this place since taking the original photo. Forty-four years later, the thirty final steps to access the terrace did not intimidate the photographer who, in front of the entire team, did it at a pace that aroused envy. The radical transformation of São Paulo seen from there is impressive. He says that the photo that immortalized the sinuous curves of the Pinheiros River happened by chance, since he was there to take a picture of the old Kodak building, now surrounded by a wall of glass-window buildings. While most of the team remains absorbed and static by the hugeness of the landscape, the photographer removes the equipment from his bags, immediately finds the angle where he positioned himself in the past, and kicks off a ritual he excels at like nobody else. There’s no pause for nostalgia, he wants to work. It took a few hours until the light allowed reproducing the original image. During this interval, the seat that was made available to German remained untouched. Relying on the inseparable help of his son J. Henrique Lorca, who inherited from his father the love for photography, he clicks, repositions, checks the shutter speed, and relentlessly performs tests until he becomes satisfied. Which is not an easy task.
A few days later, we were back in his company again. This time, a late Sunday afternoon at Largo São Francisco, where 64 years ago he aimed his lens at the University of São Paulo Law School building. The construction remains the same as in the 1954 photo, but the electronic beat coming from a party on the other side of the street, where the average age probably amounts to less than one-fourth of Lorca’s age, reminds us that times have changed. Indifferent to the music and to what happened around him, he positioned himself in full concentration, millimetrically calculating the exact angle for the perfect click.
We then headed to Rua Dr. Falcão Filho, a few blocks away from Largo São Francisco. The aim was to reproduce another photo taken in 1954. As nightfall approached downtown São Paulo, the feeling of insecurity increased, at least for part of the team. Nothing that affected Lorca, apparently carefree about being with his equipment in a dark corner of Rua Líbero Badaró. When asked about safety in previous decades, when he used to walk around the city always accompanied by his camera, he simply laughs as if saying: “You don’t know the São Paulo where I lived.” Redoing this photo was one of the most difficult tasks of this project, because the changes in the region also altered not only the view, but the place where he positioned himself at the time for the shot. A new building and a newsstand compromised the angle. To look even more like the original, the only thing missing was the solitary vehicle in the middle of the photo, which on this Sunday, German revealed to us it was his own car.
On the last day of the photo shoot, we had a difficult task at hand. We had only a few hours to revisit Ibirapuera and Mooca, on a busy morning just a few hours before a Brazil match in the World Cup. We started out with Oca, in front of which, back in 1954, the models were German’s grandmother and his oldest son Fred, just three years old by then. The simple image of a woman with her back to the camera holding hands with the child, standing out before Niemeyer’s grandiose architecture, is one of the artist’s most famous photos. In the new version, the photographer’s niece and her son relive the characters in a park very different from back then, where grass cutters and CrossFit athletes insisted on invading his perspective. Those who see the photo cannot imagine everything that was going on around.
To finish the project, we then headed to Mooca. The traditional São Paulo neighborhood, one of the symbols of the Italian immigration in the city, was the stage for the emblematic photo Apartamentos [Apartments], taken in 1952. When German took the picture, he came by foot from the neighborhood of Brás, where he was born and spent part of his life, in search of images to inspire him. There, in front of a group of simple buildings, a scene drew his attention: two boys nonchalantly playing bafo (a game of flipping soccer-player cards). The moment that passed unnoticed by everyone, took on a poetic turn through German’s lens. The simplicity of the moment, the innocence of early childhood, and the shadows that geometrically formed a bold drawing on the simple architecture of the buildings became a work of art. German’s reunion with this place, which lost its identity after successive renovation works over the years, included the special participation of his sons. Under precise instructions from the father, exacting like a scene director should be, Fred and J. Henrique followed exactly each suggested movement.
The new perspectives, the alternative angles forced by changes over time, and the artist’s acute eye are shared with the audience in these images. The grandness and simplicity of the man behind the lens was witnessed first-hand by the SP-Arte team throughout the execution of this project.
This piece was first published at the second edition of SP-Arte Magazine, in August, 2018.