October 23, 2014
Horacio Coppola dies
The legendary Argentine photographer was 105
Horacio Coppola, one of the founders of Argentine photography and a key figure in photographic modernism, died yesterday in Buenos Aires at 105.
Coppola was a key figure of the golden age of the art in Argentina, along such classic names as Annemarie Heinrich, Grete Stern, Anatole Saderman and Juan Di Sandro.
Born in 1906 in a well-off immigrant family, Coppola was interested in arts, music and philosophy from a very early age.
He shot his first photographs when he was 21. Those first efforts already showed the concern with a specific sort of framing and special use of light which would dominate his famous cityscapes and the images which he provided for the first edition of Jorge Luis Borges’ Evaristo Carriego.
In 1929, he was a founding member and president of the Cine Club de Buenos Aires. Shortly after, on a short trip to Europe, he purchased a Leica camera that would remain his instrument of choice for the rest of his career.
He married the German photographer Grete Stern, whom he met while they were both studying at the Bauhaus School in Germany between WWI and WWII. In that period, he shot the film Traum with Walter Auerbach.
Years later, in France, he did his first internationally renowned work, the book L‘Art de la Mesopotamie featuring images from the Sumerian art collections of the British Museum and the Louvre. He also shot a series of famous portraits of painter Marc Chagall.
In 1936, after years of studying in Europe under teachers like Walter Peterhans, he returned to Argentina with his wife and they opened a studio together. It was then that he set his gaze on his native town, to which he dedicated the book Buenos Aires 1936 (Visión fotográfica). The album was commissioned by the Mayor’s office on the city’s 400th anniversary.
That book established his reputation in the country, and led to the film Así nació el obelisco. After that he took on countless projects, including the photo archive of the pre-Columbine archeology section of the La Plata Archeological Museum and the works of the Brazilian colonnial artist El Aleijandinho.
In the 60s, he was among the first artists to work with colour photography, and had a major exhibition in 1969 at the Modern Arts Museum. That retrospective later travelled to halls in Austin, Texas and Michigan.
Mostly forgotten in the 70s, the following decade saw a “rediscovery” when he was invited to the Fotografie Lateinamerika Von 1860 bis Heute exhibition in Zurich.
His most important shows include Cuarenta años de fotografía (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, 1969); Mi fotografía (Fundación San Telmo, 1984); Antología fotográfica 1927-1992 (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, 1992) and El Buenos Aires de Horacio Coppola (Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, Centro Julio González, Valencia, 1996-97). In 2005, his works from the 1930s were featured at the ARCO arts fair in Madrid and in ArteBA.
He received the Fondo Nacional de las Artes’ Grand Prix for lifetime achievements (1985) and was declared an illustrious citizen of Buenos Aires City in 2003.
The last tribute to his works was held at Malba in 2006, for his hundredth birthday, with a retrospective of his work during the 20s, 30s and 40s. The most celebrated series of images remained his Buenos Aires project, where he cast a curious and amazed gaze at such highlights of the city as La Boca, Avenida de Mayo, Corrientes, Paseo Colón, Alvear, city lights, department stores and some iconic corners.