Kenneth Frampton, Photographs by Marcel Gautherot
Thames & Hudson, London, 2010
‘From nothing; from nothing to construction.’
It was in these almost epically laconic terms that Marcel Gautherot recalled the formidable undertaking to which he committed himself in the late 1950s – photographing every step of the construction of the city of Brasilia, from untouched grassland to modern capital.
The ideal architectural photographer, he initially studied architecture and design, and was influenced by Le Corbusier and other modernist architects as well as the political radicalism of the interwar period. Postwar, however, he devoted his life to travel and photography, taking with him a gaze trained in the formal rigour of modernism but also a natural sympathy for ordinary people that was to help him in his ethnographic work.
After moving to Brazil in 1940, he forged many friendships and partnerships, most notably with Oscar Niemeyer, the chief architect of Brasilia. Indeed, Gautherot recorded most of Niemeyer’s work as his photographer of choice. It was, however, in Brasilia – the high point of the careers of both Niemeyer and chief urban planner Lucio Costa – that the photographer’s art of light and shadow reached its apex.
For three years Gautherot repeatedly visited Brasilia, photographing not only every stage of construction, but also the faces and homes of the workers who worked on the construction sites and satellite cities in the making. The result is a monumental and radical photo essay.
Here, for the first time, the photographs are collected to form a portfolio of Gautherot’s work in Brasilia, and it pays due tribute to this great Franco-Brazilian artist in the centennial year of his birth and on the fiftieth anniversary of Brasilia’s inauguration.