Photoclubbing in Poços de Caldas
In 2021, during the selection of objects for the exhibition of photographer Limercy Forlin – presented that year at the Instituto Moreira Salles in Poços de Caldas –, I received a leather suitcase containing dozens of photographs of photo clubs from Brazil and abroad with stamps and imprints on their backs, from the photographer's family. A first survey of this material indicated that these works would have been exhibited at the last international exhibition of the Foto Cine Clube de Poços de Caldas, in 1972.
Research on this photo club found a first mention of the entity in a bulletin of the Foto Cine Clube Bandeirante de São Paulo, during a visit by its members to the city in 1951: “In Poços de Caldas, the bandeirantes promoted the exhibition of the Color section of the last Salon; the session held in the Noble Salon of the Palace Hotel awakened great interest, attended by numerous interested parties and associates of the local entity” (Boletim Foto Cine, São Paulo, year VI, n. 67, 1951).
But only in the following decade did the Foto Cine Clube de Poços de Caldas seem to have developed a more consistent performance. In the mid-1960s, Paulo Eugênio Vivaldi Ferreira, a financial investor, moved to Poços de Caldas from Rio de Janeiro. With a restless and creative spirit and a great photography enthusiast, he was friends in Rio with the Hungarian photographer Ferenc Aszmann, who played an important role as editor of the magazine FotoArte, focused on publishing articles about photography, exhibitions and salons in Brazil and around the world.
It is likely that Foto Cine Clube de Poços de Caldas was consolidated by the action of these two characters, who soon gathered a significant group of people interested in photography and its consequences: Roberto Thomas Arruda, lawyer; Limercy Forlin, photographer; Don Douane Williams, engineer and director of Alcoa Alumínio; Antonio Jayro Mota, psychologist; Reginaldo Alvisi, Célio Barbosa, and Natálio Teixeira, traders; Dorival Pereira, photographer; José Asdrúbal Amaral, lawyer; José Alexandre Ramos and Roberto de Andrade, traders; Cyro Machado, engineer; among others. The participation of women in the Foto Cine Clube de Poços de Caldas was modest, but relevant: Zizi Forlin, Limercy Forlin's wife, Vera Arruda, Paulo Eugênio's wife, who also was both organizer and secretary of the exhibitions, and Anne Williams, Don Williams's wife, were the ones who stood out the most and participated in exhibitions.
Like many of its counterparts throughout Brazil, Foto Cine Clube de Poços de Caldas never had a physical headquarters, and the meetings between the participants were informal, in members' homes and often on the street, where they exchanged experiences of developing the negatives and magnifying, as well as visual effects, such as solarization, manual interferences and overlapping images. The participation of its members in exhibitions and salons was individual, and the logistics for sending and receiving the works – usually enlargements of 30 x 40 cm, identified on the back with the author's name, title, date and technique, together with the seal and stamp of the photo club that had taken part – was the responsibility of the club. Always encouraged by Ferenc Aszmann and Paulo Eugênio, Foto Cine Clube de Poços de Caldas produced three international exhibitions, which took place between 1966 and 1972. Although there are no records, some national exhibitions were made between 1965 and 1970, according to Don Douane Williams.
At a time when the premises of Modernism prevailed in Brazil, practiced and defended by Foto Cine Clube Bandeirante, the main national entity of photoclubbing, Foto Cine Clube de Poços de Caldas defined its production as pictorialist, as opposed to the modern and often abstract images of the São Paulo institution. Images of landscapes, genre scenes and portraits made up the vast majority of photographs, and some of them had relevant awards in this context. For example, the photograph Mother India, by Don Douane Williams, present in this exhibition, was awarded and appeared in the catalog of the Singapore Salon in 1970.
The exchange between photo clubs between the 1960s and 1980s was very intense, both nationally and internationally. The set of photographs shown in this exhibition includes about 144 images of photographers from several Brazilian clubs (Poços de Caldas, Bandeirante, Jaú, Amparo, Belém do Pará, Nova Friburgo, Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, Pato Branco, Niterói, and São Paulo, numbering 85 images), and foreign photographers, who arrived here through their photo clubs (Austria, Germany, Lithuania, Russia, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, United States, Argentina, Portugal, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, totalling 59 images). It is worth remarking that the Cold War and the military dictatorship in Brazil did not prevent the exchange with photo clubs from countries then under communist rule, even though the communication and sending of photographs took place via post, under monitoring at the time.
The closure of Foto Cine Clube de Poços de Caldas may have been due to the loss of two essential members: Paulo Eugênio Vivaldi died suddenly at the age of 31, in 1972. Ferenc Aszmann died shortly after, leaving the photo club without the logistical structure necessary for its survival. The non-return of the photographs of the last exhibition of the Foto Cine Clube de Poços de Caldas, that year, in addition to being a serious flaw in the logic of the organization of the photo clubs, highlights the moment of decline of the entity Poços de Caldas. On the other hand, this allowed the memory of the photo club to be recovered in this exhibition.
Many national photo clubs remained active until the 1980s. The advent of color photography, the mechanization of enlargements and prints, and the increasing ease of shooting with the resources of new cameras and films have caused photo clubs to begin to disappear. The golden age of black and white authorial photography, of artisanal developments and enlargements, of pictorialist or modern aesthetics, had passed. The world was irreversibly approaching digital photography and an unprecedented image production, which would radically change the destiny of photography.
Teodoro Stein Carvalho Dias