Brazilian Participation in FIAP, 1950–1965

Brazilian Participation in the International Federation of Photographic Art (FIAP), 1950–1965” (provisional title) is a commissioned research article for a book about photography in Brazil, Fotografia Moderna (provisional title), edited by Helouise Costa and Heloísa Espada to be published by Instituto Moreira Salles, São Paulo, Brazil, in 2021.

“Reception of the President of FIAP [Maurice Van de Wyer] in Santos, Brazil, by the authorities and the [photo] club in 1960. The transparencies were mounted in front of the City Hall.”  Camera,  no. 1 (1961). 48.

“Reception of the President of FIAP [Maurice Van de Wyer] in Santos, Brazil, by the authorities and the [photo] club in 1960. The transparencies were mounted in front of the City Hall.” Camera, no. 1 (1961). 48.

An early version of abstract (January 2019):

“For me, the most moving aspect of looking at a salon catalogue is seeing the names of Brazilians entangled with names of artists from other parts of the world … democratically positioned as equals,” acknowledged José Oiticica Filho (1906–1964) in an article published in Boletim Foto Cine in 1951. A key figure in Brazilian postwar photography, Oiticica Filho is acknowledged as an important experimental photographer, one of the pioneers of modernist photography associated with the São Paulo photo club Foto Cine Clube Bandeirante (FCCB). Little, however, is known about another aspect of his involvement with photography: parallel to his creative work, he compiled extensive data tables pertaining to hundreds of photography exhibitions throughout the world. By doing so, Oiticica Filho established a significant link between Brazilian photographers and the global photo-club culture of the 1950s.

The work of photo clubs revolved around international juried exhibitions (also referred to as salons) selected through open call. During the 1950s, photographers often relied on photo-club salons as their primary regular exhibition venues because the established systems of art museums and galleries welcomed their work only in rare exceptions. The most visible advocate of the global photo-club culture was the International Federation of Photographic Art (Fédération internationale de l'art photographique, FIAP), founded in Switzerland in 1950. Over the following decade, FIAP united and mobilized photo clubs in fifty-five countries in Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa, becoming the first post-World War II organization to provide photographers with an institutional space that existed outside the market and that transcended political and ethnic borders.

Brazil was the first non-European country to join FIAP in 1950. The founder and president of FIAP, Belgian photographer Maurice Van de Wyer (1896–1994) was a close acquaintance of Eduardo Salvatore (1914–2006), the founder and president of FCCB. Van de Wyer visited São Paulo and FCCB on a regular basis during the 1950s. While it is not clear whether Oiticica Filho and Van de Wyer ever met in person, Oiticica Filho became an active contributor to the work of FIAP. He published several statistical reports about international salons of photography, based on data he collected from salon catalogues. These reports reveal the geographic reach of the global photo-club culture in the mid-1950s, with hundreds of exhibitions every year in countries across the world. Most active exhibition participants managed to circulate tens and even hundreds of prints at a time in various salons, and among them were FCCB members such as Gertrudes Altschul (1904–1962), Francisco Albuquerque (1917–2000), Ivo Ferreira da Silva (b. 1911), Gaspar Gasparian (1899–1966), Jean Lecoq (1898–1986), and Kazuo Kawahara (b. 1905), as well as Salvatore and Oiticica Filho himself.

Oiticica Filho’s statistical work opens a broader perspective on postwar photo-club culture as a global phenomenon. Data he collected and published make a thriving, transnational field both visible and quantifiable by providing a helpful guide to the otherwise uncharted field of photo-club culture that firmly establishes Brazil as one of its creative centers.