Eye to Eye — Photography & Literature

The issues surrounding photography and literature were the theme of a new cycle of lectures that SP-Foto launched on its 13th edition, in partnership with Escrevedeira – a cultural space dedicated to literary courses and events in São Paulo. Conceived by writer and art critic João Bandeira, “Eye to Eye – Photography & Literature” consisted of three panels, two of which happened at Escrevedeira, in Vila Madalena, on the 10th and 17th of august, and a third that took place during SP-Foto, from the 21st to the 25th of August at Shopping JK Iguatemi.

In this cycle, professionals focused on writing invite renowned photographers to speak on authors and books that have influenced their image production. In dialogue with writer and artist Alberto Martins, Maureen Bisilliat reflects on her photo essays inspired by literary works such as “Grande Sertão: veredas” [The Devil to Pay in the Backlands]; Bob Wolfenson talks with journalist and editor Matinas Suzuki Jr. about the work of photographer Walker Evans in the book “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men”; and Cristiano Mascaro relates to writer Noemi Jaffe how Clarice Lispector and other authors influenced his work.

Maureen Bisilliat & Alberto Martins

A primeira palestra foi dia 10 de agosto na Escrevedeira. Participaram a fotógrafa Maureen Bisilliat e o editor e artista Alberto Martins (Foto: Jéssica Mangaba)

Impacted by the book “Grande sertão: veredas” [The Devil to Pay in the Backlands], Maureen Bisilliat took on the challenge of photographing the backlands of Minas Gerais, where Guimarães Rosa’s novel takes place. Encouraged by the author himself – Bisilliat exchanged thoughts and accounts with Rosa –, the British photographer, who is rooted in Brazil, published in 1969 “A João Guimarães Rosa” [To João Guimarães Rosa], an homage-essay to the one who best translated the sentiment of a deep-state Brazil. In this series, Maureen selects sections of the novel she considered particularly meaningful and paired them with her photographs of landscapes and portraits of countrymen. This experience straightened her relationship to Brazilian literature even more: works by Drummond, Euclides da Cunha, João Cabral, Adélia Prado and Jorge Amado where the basis of many other essays by the photographer. In dialogue with writer and artist Alberto Martins, she talked about the acquaintanceship with some of these authors and the literary passions that moved her photographic adventures.

Bob Wolfenson & Matinas Suzuki Jr.

A segunda fala do ciclo contou com a participação do fotógrafo Bob Wolfenson e do editor Matinas Suzuki Jr. (Foto: Jéssica Mangaba)

When photographer Walker Evans and journalist James Agee joined together on the request of Fortune magazine to portray the effects of the Great Depression in the countryside of the United States, they probably had no idea they would forever change the way north-american journalism was perceived. Recused by the magazine for rupturing with the newsroom standards of the time, the work resulted in the book “Let Us Now Praise Important Men”, which became a classic of the literary journalism and photographic reporting genre for portraying farmers in Alabama in 1936. Published in Portuguese by Companhia das Letras under the coordination of Matinas Suzuki Jr., the book by Evans and Agee is the theme of the panel by the editor and Bob Wolfenson, one of today’s most renowned portrait artists. Bob reflects on how Evans’ work echoes in his own creations, including a series of “street photography” less known to the public.

Cristiano Mascaro & Noemi Jaffe


The third table of the “Eye to Eye – Photography & Literature” panel also took part in the Talks programe, the oficial lecture cycle of SP-Foto, which took place in the Cubo, a recently inaugurated space at Shopping JK Iguatemi. On this last panel, photographer Cristiano Mascaro – one of today’s most important Brazilian photographers, known for his faithful black and white portraying of various populations and regions in Brazil and of architectural land-marks in different parts of the world – confided to writer and literary critic Noemi Jaffe his conception of the role of the photographer as a sort of life chronicler. Starting from this idea, Mascaro talked about his intimate relation with literature and to what extent certain books by fundamental names of this universe, such as Clarice Lispector, Ernesto Sabato, Italo Calvino and the critic Antonio Candido, have been source of inspiration throughout the long path of his photographic production.