The assassination of Piersanti Mattarella, Governor of Sicily, in 1980.
The assassination of Piersanti Mattarella, Governor of Sicily, in 1980. Photo: Letizia Battaglia

At the  Moreira Salles Institute (IMS) in São Paulo, two exhibitions dedicated to important foreign photographers: the Italian Letizia Battaglia (1935) and the Chilean Sergio Larrain (1931-2012).

Letizia Battaglia: Palermo show brings together about 90 images, publications and films, with a special focus on the photographer's performance in the L'Ora newspaper. She began her work as a photographer in 1971 in Milan, while writing as a freelancer for various publications, such as Le Ore, a tabloid newspaper and ABC, an intellectual publication. She was invited by L'Ora to return to Palermo, where she had been born, and it was during four decades that she documented the mafia war, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. This all without ignoring the daily life of the city and its inhabitants.

In the words of the photographer, “with the camera in tow, I became a witness of all the evil that was taking place. They were years of civil war: Sicilians against Sicilians. The best judges, the most courageous journalists, the politicians averse to corruption were murdered”. With curatorship by Paolo Falcone, the exhibition has already gone through Palermo, Rome and the IMS in Rio before arriving in São Paulo.

The exhibition Sergio Larrain: um rectangular na Mão, traces a panorama of the work by the Chilean, who acted as correspondent of the Magnum agency during the 1960s. The exhibition presents more than 140 photographs, a video and publications, contemplating the periods of production of Larrain in Santiago, work as correspondents in Europe and South America and his return to the native land. Under the auspices of Agnès Sire, the exhibition has already passed through Arles, France, in several Chilean cities, Buenos Aires and IMS in Rio.

Photos: Sergio Larrain/Magnum Photo

In this version that is at the IMS, was added the work that Larrain did in the second half of the 1950s for the Brazilian magazine Cruzeiro Internacional, ran by Assis Chateaubriand. Owner of the magazine Cruzeiro – successful and responsible for the implantation of the photojournalism here with photographers like Jose Medeiros, Pierre Verger, Luiz Carlos Barreto, Marcel Gautherot -, Chateaubriand when launching its international version wanted to compete with American magazine Life and with the publication French magazine Paris Match.

The magazine was launched in 1957, Larrain produced for her little more than a dozen reports between 1957 and 1959. He was then invited by Cartier-Bresson to work at Magnum in Paris. The Cruzeiro Internacional ended in 1965 due to lack of advertisers.

In France, Sergio Larrain, who was a friend of Julio Cortázar, one day revealing the films he had made through the streets of Paris saw, in the background in a photo, a couple. He widened the negative and saw that the couple made love, leaning against a wall. He met later with the Argentine writer and showed him the magnification. The photo served as inspiration for the tale Las babas del diablo, one of five published in 1959 in the book Las Armas Secretas. The tale, in turn, inspired the Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni who made the now classic and inspiring Blow-Up.

In Sire's words, the curator of the show, who has worked at Magnum since 1982 and is director and founder of the Cartier-Bresson Foundation, “for Larrain photography was poetry, it was by no means a documentary issue”.

In a letter he wrote to a nephew in 1982, Sergio Larrain said: “Follow your taste and nothing else, believe only in your taste… When you have some really good pictures, enlarge and make a small exhibition – or a little book. Have it bound. And with that, set your foot on a floor. By showing them, you realize what they are by seeing them in front of others – that is where you feel them. To make an exhibition is to give something, it is like giving food, it is good for others to show them something done with work and taste. It is not showing off, doing well done is healthy for everyone”.

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