Left: CHILE. Valparaiso, 1963. Right: CHILE. Eastern Island, 1961.
A notoriously reclusive artist, Sergio Larrain has nonetheless become a touchstone for those who have come to know and love his work, including authors Roberto Bolaño and Julio Cortázar. His images have left generations of viewers in awe of the simultaneous serenity and spontaneity that a camera can capture—when placed, that is, in the hands of an artist with such rare meditative passion. “A good image is born from a state of grace,” the artist once explained.
Sergio Larrain (1931–2012, born in Valparaiso, Chile) grew up in Chile, but left at age eighteen to study at the University of California, Berkeley. Upon his return he began taking photographs in the streets of Santiago and Valparaiso; the early purchase of two images by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, reassured him in his chosen profession. Impressed by Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photographs, Larrain presented the photographer his work on los abandonados (street children in Santiago) during a trip to Europe. Cartier-Bresson then invited Larrain to join Magnum in 1960; around this time he also began what would become a legendary project on Valparaiso with a text by poet Pablo Neruda. Unsure if he was suited to working for the press, Larrain retreated to the Chilean countryside and dedicated himself to yoga, meditation, and drawing until his death in February 2012.