A notoriously reclusive artist, Sergio Larrain (1931-2012) has nonetheless become a touchstone for those who have come to know and love his work, including authors Roberto Bolaño and Julio Cortázar. Celebrated by Henri Cartier-Bresson, his contemporary and a co-founder of Magnum, Larrain’s experimental process yielded images that transformed the fixed nature of the medium. His images have left generations of viewers in awe of the simultaneous serenity and spontaneity that a camera can capture–when placed, that is, in the hands of an artist with such rare meditative passion. “A good image is born from a state of grace,” the artist once explained. “Sergio Larrain,” a selection of more than 200 images, rectifies Larrain’s omission from the canon of significant twentieth-century photographers, and combines his work in Latin America with photographs taken in Europe. Following a creatively fertile period in the 1950s and 60s, Larrain put away his camera and devoted himself to the solitary pursuit of spiritual mysticism, a decision that further contributed to his reputation as a romantic, a “fatal personage,” in the words of Bolaño. Created with the encouragement of Larrain’s family, the book is sumptuously produced, designed by Xavier Barral and edited by Agnès Sire, who enjoyed a long correspondence with the photographer and has worked with Magnum on preserving his photographic estate.
Number of pages: 400
Publication date: 09-30-2013
Measurements: 11.7 x 8.3 x 1.5 inches
A book full of beautiful, often bravely experimental street images, it should go some way towards elevating the reclusive photographer into the canon of 20th-century greats.–Sean O’Hagan”The Guardian” (12/07/2013)
Sergio Larrain grew up in Chile, but left at age eighteen to study at the University of California, Berkeley. Upon his return he began taking photographs in the streets of Santiago and Valparaiso; the early purchase of two images by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, reassured him in his chosen profession. Impressed by Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photographs, Larrain presented the photographer his work on los abandonados (street children in Santiago) during a trip to Europe. Cartier-Bresson then invited Larrain to join Magnum in 1960; around this time he also began what would become a legendary project on Valparaiso with a text by poet Pablo Neruda. Unsure if he was suited to working for the press, Larrain retreated to the Chilean countryside and dedicated himself to yoga, meditation, and drawing until his death in February 2012.
After completing a doctorate in philosophy and aesthetics, Agnès Sire worked at the Alexandre Iolas gallery in Paris before joining the team at Magnum Photos as artistic director. Co-author of several collective books at Magnum, she has also curated many exhibitions. She lectured at the Université Paris-I Sorbonne for two years. In 2004, she became director of the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson where she is also in charge of exhibitions and catalogue publication, including Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Scrapbook and Harry Callahan’s Variations. She was also involved in the publication of Sergio Larrain’s Valparaíso and Londres (London) and was associate curator of the exhibition held at IVAM-Centre Julio Gonzalez in Valencia.
Gonzalo Leiva Quijada is professor of the history of civilization at EHESS (École des hautes études en sciences sociales) in Paris and lectures in philosophy and aesthetics at the Instituto de Estética, Pontifi cia Universidad Católica de Chile, in Santiago. He has published many works on photography and the art of Latin America, including Pinturas con historia (2008), Multitudes en sombras: AFI (2008), Horizontes y abismos, Obra visual de Virginia Huneeus (2011), Sergio Larraín, Biografi a, estética, fotografía (2012).