Saturday, 25 February 2012

Sergio Larrain

Sometimes I'm not sure how far to take Tangocommuter. After all, a blog with that name ought to be about tango, but on occasions it's been about other things altogether, things that interest me but perhaps no one else. Perhaps the name was shortsighted of me: something a bit more general might have been better. I wonder about publishing notes about films I've seen, exhibitions, places I've visited... I've even thought about a separate blog for the non-tango stuff, but TC might get a bit thin on the ground, especially now that I feel I've got through a time of discovery of tango, and I don't want to start repeating myself. Anyway, this one has a vague tango connection.

Last September I posted about Argentine author Julio Cortazar who was in Buenos Aires during the 1940s into the 1950s, and has left an unromantic but no doubt accurate description of a milonga of the era. He left Buenos Aires for Paris in the 1950s, and while there wrote a story called Las Babas del Diablo, 'devil's drool', which was read by Antonioni who adapted it for screen and called it Blow Up. Cortazar's story has no murder, nothing sensational, just a momentary uneasy encounter between an adolescent and a well-dressed lady, observed by a man in a car.

I've just found out where Cortazar got his story from. He had a friend in Paris, a young Chilean photographer called Sergio Larrain who had an extraordinary eye for street photography. Larrain found that uneasy encounter between two people in one of his enlargements. It wasn't why he took the photo, and he wasn't aware of it as he took the photo; it was just there in the blow-up. The story obviously resonated with Cortazar, and in turn with Antonioni too. But I much prefer Larrain's original story. Cortazar imagined he photographed the scene, thereby disturbing the participants and giving the young man the chance to escape, so the scene ended. Larrain didn't notice the scene until much later, so it was open-ended. He must have sat and looked at his blow-up and wondered what happened next.

You can hunt down his photos on the web. I love this:

It's not a photo of Trafalgar Square: it's an image made in Trafalgar Square that is open-ended, as images are: the difference between a photographer and a person with a camera. It can be seen in different ways by different people, and it's new and marvellous to look at. All his photos are.

He's not so well known because he dropped out in 1972, went and lived in the Andes, meditating and teaching yoga. He gave up photography and painted. He died a few days ago. I found the story here.


Anonymous said...

do you have any links to his photos?

Tangocommuter said...

Hi, Anon. Best enter 'Sergio Larrain images' into a search engine: that's what I did. No way did he have a website!

But there's one image to watch out for: an image of two young girls suspended in mid-air, apparently in acrobatics. It seems to be a version created by some Photoshop user of a Larrain photo (which you can also find) of two girls hanging upside-down on the poles fishermen hang their nets on to dry. Someone thought it was fun to delete the poles...