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Photographs by Horacio Coppola, Text by Facundo de ZuvirÃa
Translated by Kate Macfarlane
Horacio Coppola is without a doubt the great master of Argentine photography of the twentieth century, and also the artist who memorialized the Buenos Aires of the thirties, the modern and educated city where the intellectual and artistic vanguards that had originated in contemporary Europe made a significant impact.
Coppola took his first photographs in the mid-1920s under the instruction of his brother Armando, who was a skilled amateur photographer.
In 1929, Coppola published his first photographs in the book Evaristo Carriego, by his friend Jorge Luis Borges, and these two images portray the Buenos Aires barrio â the mythical Borgian Palermo â with his meticulous austerity and insertion of the grassland. These photographs were taken with his first camera, a plate camera, which he purchased the same year.
Around 1930, he embarked upon a study trip throughout Europe. We do not know what it is that he saw there, but we know that he acquired a Leica. This camera, with which he returned to photograph his city, Buenos Aires, in 1931, gave his restless spirit the perfect medium for his photographic search for new forms and unusual angles.
After producing a series of cutting-edge images at the Brazilian ports at which his boat stopped on the return voyage to Argentina, Coppola dedicated himself to photographing Buenos Aires with total freedom, from absolutely original points of view, devoid of documentary aims and guided by a completely different search, that of his own vision reflected in the urban and shantytown elements of his city.
If we observe his first photographs, some of which he selected for a portfolio in 1931, we do not see Buenos Aires in a testimonial light. Rather, we see a search for the definitive essence, the most intimate character of the city. It is through this view towards Buenos Aires that Coppola develops the characteristics that shape his photography, profoundly modern and of a depth that transcends the subject that is depicted.
Horacio Coppola was, in those years, an extraordinary and visionary artist, conscious of the transcendence of his work, which his earlier travels to Germany and his experience at the Bauhaus had finished forming. When he returned to Buenos Aires at the end of 1935, his project was to unify his first perceptions of his city with a methodical plan to capture them. This search to combine his more subjective photographs with other views of new âobjectivityâ resulted in the magnificent book Buenos Aires â1936, which the Municipality of Buenos Aires published to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the founding of the city.
In this work we see the evolution of the artist, from his first searches around the forms and geometry of the image, to his aim to photograph Buenos Aires in a more encompassing and complete manner. With this idea, Coppola made himself a plan for photographing the city, based upon the scheme of photographing different points along the three main boulevards that run through Buenos Aires: Santa FÃ©, Corrientes, and San Juan-Directorio. To these photos he added other themes, including nightlife, downtown, the neighborhood of La Boca, and activities like a day at the racetrack. The resulting portrayal of the city combines his first photographs â with their close-to-geometric abstraction â with others of a more documentary nature. To create the latter types of images, Coppola used a plate camera; these magnificent vistas, so full of detail and significance, complement the more direct and spontaneous shots taken with his Leica.
Buenos Aires â 1936 constitutes a major milestone in the photography of the Americas. This ambitious book shows this magnificent work of Horacio Coppola and earns him a place of privilege among the most distinguished authors of our continent. Even at 103 years old, he remains the undisputed patriarch of Argentine photography.