[Word-photography pairing]

Bikini. Moscow. William Klein. 1959.

Rest in peace Mr. William Klein.

Word-photography pairing
Inspired by an article written by Geoff Dyer called ‘form: word + photography’ and published by Zum magazine in May 2014, I found resonance for an aspect of great relevance for me in photography that is ‘marriage of the word with the photograph’ or ‘photography’ with the word’. For me, there is often an exchange of roles, i.e., who was born first, like the story: ‘the egg or the chicken?’: ‘The word or the photo?’.

Dyer cites some books that historically fall into this category and after reading his article I was tempted to buy one and ended up buying the ‘Looking at photographs’ where John Szarkowski ‘houses’ 100 photographs from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York ( the most iconic in his perspective in 1973, of course) with ‘words’ about such photos. Despite having the book in my hands for less than 24 hours, I was able to perceive real jewels – both ‘jewels-words’ and ‘jewels-photographs’ – that are in it.

One of these gems is a photo by William Klein made in Moscow in 1959 that Szarkowski’s book does not give the name (what a mistake Szarkowski!), But I know it’s a bikini because it’s the cover of a Photofile (Thames & Hudson, 2017) from Klein that I have in my small library. “Bikini” escapes – in my modest knowledge and understanding of Klein’s work – from the ‘rule’ of (almost all) photographs by this author who excels in ‘meter’ within the rectangle, a great diversity of elements of composition. ‘Bikini’ has 6 layers or beautifully defined plans …. and, many mysteries … tensions … and, poetry.

Well, among the many things that Szarkowski talks about in this photograph, I read something I want to share:

“It was recognized long ago that so-called good photographic technique did not invariably make the best picture. Sometimes the gritty, graphic simplicity of the badly made photograph had about it an expressive authority that seemed to fit the subject better than the smooth, plastic description of the classical fine print ”.

You did well Szarkowski!!! …


Inspirado num artigo escrito por Geoff Dyer chamado ‘forma: palavra + fotografia’ e publicado pela revista Zum em maio de 2014 encontrei ressonância para um aspecto de grande relevância para mim na fotografia que é ‘casamento da palavra com a fotografia’ ou da ‘fotografia com a palavra’. Para mim muitas vezes há, aí, um intercâmbio de papéis, i.e., de quem nasceu primeiro, como a história: ‘o ovo ou a galinha?’: ‘a palavra ou a fotografia?’.
Dyer cita alguns livros que historicamente encaixam-se nesta categoria e após ler seu artigo fiquei tentado em comprar um deles e acabei comprando o ‘Looking at photographs’ onde John Szarkowski ‘casa’ 100 fotografias do acervo do Museu de Arte Moderna de Nova York (as mais icônicas em sua perspectiva no ano de 1973, é lógico) com ‘palavras’ sobre tais fotos. Apesar de ter nas mãos o livro menos de 24 horas, já pude perceber verdadeiras joias – tanto ‘joias-palavras’ como ‘joias-fotografias’ – que há no mesmo.
Uma dessas preciosidades é uma foto de William Klein feita em Moscow em 1959 que o livro do Szarkowski não dá o nome (que mancada Szarkowski!), mas eu sei que é ‘bikini’ porque é capa de um Photofile (Thames & Hudson, 2017) do Klein que tenho em minha pequena biblioteca. “Bikini’ foge – no meu modesto conhecimento e entendimento da obra de Klein – da ‘regra’ das (quase totalidade) fotografias desse autor que prima por ‘meter’ dentro do retângulo grande diversidade de elementos de composição. ‘Bikini’ tem 6 camadas ou planos lindamente definidos….e, muitos mistérios…tensões…e, poesia.
Pois é: entre as várias coisas que o Szarkowski fala dessa fotografia leio algo que quero compartilhar:

“It was recognized long ago that so-called good photographic technique did not invariably make the best picture. Sometimes the gritty, graphic simplicity of the badly made photograph had about it an expressive authority that seemed to fit the subject better than the smooth, plastic description of the classical fine print”.

Mandou bem Szarkowski…


Knowing the secrets, the mysteries of the river in order to move forward in life; to be able to navigate; to be able to love. To cross a river is to know the river; it is the revelation of life.
Knowing the secrets and beauty of the fluidity, strength, freshness and transparency of its waters… The crossing of a river is the unveiling of the secrets and mysteries of the solidity of its shaped pebbles, sculpted by water and time, lying and almost geometrically accommodated, there almost transparent in the depths of the river.
It’s revealing the secrets and mysteries of life… it’s the courage to antagonize fears; create paths to navigate. It is not content with knowing the river only from one of its banks. It is rejoicing in the pleasures of crossing and on the other side of the river; from the other side of the river. It is opening doors in the pursuit of ideals and dreams. The unveiling of new paths on the other side of the river to be able to walk; to follow; to love.
The river is also path and time, at the same time; path of past, present and future times …long path; sometimes serpentine; sometimes calm, sometimes turbulent, towards the sea…

‘the river is like time… there was never a beginning’… ‘the river is a snake that has its mouth in the rain and its tail in the sea’ (mia couto. a river called time, a house called land. cia das letras. 2022)

Me and Mr. Strand.

In the book “To understand a photograph” by John Berger (organized and introduced by Geoff Dyer and translated by Paulo Geiger) (in Brasil: Cia das Letras. São Paulo. 2017) (an authentic treatise on photography) I read and reread for some times (good things have to be tasted homeopathically) the ‘reading’ of the photo on the left from 1944 (taken three years before this scribe was born) by Paul Strand in Vermont, New England-USA, and what you can read there with all the lyrics impress me, move me a lot.

Says Berger of Strand’s work: “His best photographs are unusually dense – not in the sense of being overloaded or obscured, but in the sense of being filled with an unusual amount of substance per square centimeter. And all this substance becomes the essence of the object’s life. Take the famous portrait of Mr. Bennett. His jacket, his shirt, the beard on his chin, the wood of the house behind him, the air around him become, in this image, the very face of his life, of which his facial expression is the concentrated spirit.

left: Mr. Bennett (Vermont, New England) (1944) (by Paul Strand) — right: Onion picker (Casa Branca, SP, Brasil) (2019) (by Antonio Mozeto)

The photo on the right that I took in 2019 of an onion picker in Casa Branca (SP) has a much more explicit surface given that the worker is in his own work environment. And, without due permission, but with due daring, ‘reading’ my photo, I make my own Berger’s words about Paul Strand’s photo in vogue: all the substance of the photo is in the expressive look of the worker, in a marked face by the hardships of hard work and in the properties of his surroundings: the harsh and striking light of the day in the middle of the day, the onion harvesting bucket, the bags of onions lined up behind him, two fellow workers and the bus that brings him very early for the harvest and takes him back home at the end of another day of this person’s hard day’s work.

As well said by Berger (opera citato) “in the relationship between photography and words, the former craves an interpretation, and words usually supply it. Photography, irrefutable as evidence but weak in meaning, gains meaning from words.


Why do we do so many self-portraits? Are we photographing who we are, who we were or who we want to be? Would these photographic images that we generate be, nothing more, and for one or several reasons, the specters of the people we were, who we are or who we will be one day be? Maybe self-portraits represent more ‘the other side of the coin’ or how authentic or inauthentic we are… how mutants we are… or how nomadic we are… how wanderers we were, are and will be?