The photographs in this exhibition are shards of a partially-complete history of a nation called Brasil, as seen through the lens of a man who has maintained an intimate relationship with the country and its people over 40 years time.
The images are mainly concentrated in the mid-1960s and the i970s with a few which touch on more recent times. While roaming his particular Brasil, Zingg has photographed both personalities and things.
For his photographas of the celebrated in various fields, Zingg, now a young 75, has become celebrated himself. As subjects for the camera, famous people are different from you and me. Mainly there is their fame, which lends a certain compelling aura to their faces. In this show we see Ataulfo Alves in a botequim behind the Central do Brasil, Joao and Astrud Gilberto in a rare joint portrait in Zingg's New York City studio, Rita Lee and the Mutantes in a surrealistic image, a young Oscar Niemeyer at his plancheta during the construction of Brasilia, and a nude Leila Diniz the day before she gave birth.
When he photographs objects or architecture, Zingg seems to be able to look at an unexceptional view of a small town or city and see its salient features, and the complex, tangled forces that had shaped it. Zingg tried to make art, as he would be the first to point out, not academic sociology: his pictures reflect on the presence of significant forces in a particular spot of historical time and he enjoys playing them off against each other. His pictures do not drag the viewer to a final, unchangeable conclusion or a simply put message. They are the raw material of a far-away, forgotton Brasil that Zingg was constructing in his own and his lens' eye.
In his street pictures, Zingg didn't aim for the momentous, the tragic or the dramatic. Rather, he seems to be after something else, something more commonplace which reflects the real life of the people who populate his Brasilan world. With a new freedom provided by the development of faster film and small, high-quality cameras, he was able to capture the spontaneous happenings of ordinary people during Carnival, in Barretos or Mato Grosso, or on the unremarkable streets of our cities. Here is the maddened stare of a Bahian gravedigger, the swirl of Mangueira's clashing red and green battle colors, or a solitary girl caught in the confetti-littered ressaca of a baile.
Susan Sontag's said that "essentially the camera makes everyone a tourist in other people's reality, and eventually in one's own."
It is difficult to know with certainty whether Zingg recorded the real Brasil of his time, or invented it. His pictures have been so widely published and seen that beyond doubt, the accepted myth of this country's recent past is in some measure the creation of this photographer . In any case, the distant Brasil of Zingg's images is now part of our history."
Dispatches From A Forgotton Land
Sao Paulo from the 18th of May until the 18th of June, 1999.The show is
open from Monday to Friday, from 9a.m. to 10p.m. The address is SENAC
Lapa, Rua Scipiao 67, telephone +55 11 3872 6722. The pictures are
jurrassic-size to save you the trouble of bringing your reading glasses.