Remains of an observatory and church, the result of the demolition of Morro do Castelo, Rio de Janeiro, RJ (1922), in
Remains of an observatory and a church, the result of the demolition of the Morro do Castelo demolition, Rio de Janeiro, RJ (1922), shows "Moderna inside out". Photo: Augusto Malta/Moreira Salles Institute Collection/Gilberto Ferrez Collection

Photographs of the emergence of cities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were associated with an idea of ​​progress and modernity. Images that showed the destruction of hovels, widening of streets, the transformation of villages into urban projects. This idea probably arose because almost all productions had a patrimonial character, that is, photographers who were hired by city halls or engineering companies to record strength and vigor. Images linked to belle époque and modernization.

But cities are formed by people, who were not always integrated into this imagery project of an urban imaginary, on the contrary, quite the contrary, often everyday images were forgotten.

In the year in which we celebrate the centenary of the Week of Modern Art, the Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS Paulista) investigates the relationship between photography, silent cinema and urban culture, through the exhibition Modern inside out: photography and the city, Brazil, 1890-1930, curated by Heloisa Espada and assisted by Beatriz Matuck.

“I wanted to present the contradictions that emerge when we think about urbanization projects, bring little-known images, and also make the connection with non-sound cinema”, explains Heloisa.

The search for Modern inside out took two years to complete, the cities presented are Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Porto Alegre, Recife, Belém and Belo Horizonte. Instead of the images often seen sparsely or in isolated contexts, the exhibition presents us with a visual essay, a critical set of what happened in those years, a political process of erasing our history.

“These are urban reforms such as the 'boot-down', which, between 1903 and 1908, expelled the low-income population and destroyed the colonial heritage of downtown Rio de Janeiro, and the inauguration of Cidade de Minas [later called Belo Horizonte]. ], planned from scratch, in 1897. They forged the modern guise of the young Republic. However, a more than late Abolition, proclaimed just a year before the coup that established the Republic, made the modern not only synonymous with actuality and progress, but also with violence, erasure and eugenics”, says Heloisa.

To escape the imagery stereotype, several illustrated magazines – in which the images were published in those years – were leafed through, museum archives researched and personal collections found. Three hundred and eleven images presented in various formats, such as postcards, albums, stereoscopies and magic lantern projections and films. The materials displayed in Modern inside out come from the IMS collection and from 28 other collections, including private and institutional ones, such as Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Fundação Biblioteca Nacional, Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi and Museu de Porto Alegre Joaquim Felizardo.

And so, at the same time that we see urbanization, in Modern inside out we also have access to films that show the world of child labor in the short Horizontina ceramics, from 1920, filmed by Igino Bonfioli, or even the spectacle of the hangover on the beaches in Rio de Janeiro, photographed by Augusto Malta, where cariocas went to photograph themselves, long before the Instagram fad. As well as many photos from family albums that are supposed to tell the story of the everyday, not the official images.

Provocatively, the exposure Modern inside out ends with movie pieces Limit, by Mario Peixoto, shot in 1930 and presented in 1931, with photography by Edgard Brasil, with close-ups and innovative framing for the time.


Modern inside out: photography and the city, Brazil, 1890-1930
Instituto Moreira Salles – Paulista: Avenida Paulista, 2424, São Paulo (SP)
Until February 26, 2023
Visitation: Tuesday to Sunday and holidays, from 10 am to 20 pm
Free admission


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