Campinas is the cradle of world photography.
I know you probably do not know the city, regardless of my statement about it being the cradle of photography, so here’s a little background why I believe it to be true.
For Brazil, Campinas is a very peculiar city. It was so important in the development of the country that it almost became the capital during the height of its coffee production in the 19th century – probably the highlight of Brazil’s economic development, which had largely been built on slavery and Italian immigrants. Campinas was the central producer and distributor of coffee, and almost had its population – now 1.2 million – decimated by yellow fever epidemics in the late 19th century.
Unfortunately, memorialising history is something that Campinas is not very good at. Almost everything from its founding in 1774 has been destroyed. Whilst a few historic buildings remain, those that do are left in bad condition. There are many museums but many have been scrapped and abandoned. Campinas is essentially a working town and being an industrial and technological center, became a place of immigration. The preservation and promotion of culture was never a priority.
It’s strange, large and populous, but retains an inner city air and heterogeneous culture, with many of its current wealthy families hailing from the coffee barons and industrial owners of old. There is a lot of poverty, racism and prejudice; in fact, it was the last city in Brazil to abolish slavery. It still lives in a certain cultural isolation, even having had people like the composer Carlos Gomes amongst its distinguished citizens.
Campinas is the city where I was born, grew up and still live; and I try to portray in my photos.
Although I have said much against it, it is still a city of beautiful architecture and cultural production. Importantly, it has the photograph as part of its history. It was here that she was born. Sound strange? It well might But it was here that Hercule Florence, the true father of photography, created and developed his technique.
Antoine Hercule Romuald Florence was an inventor, designer and polygraph (not the machine). born in Nice, France in 1804. He moved to Campinas after a German naturalist expedition with Baron Georg Heinrich von Langsdorff through the interior of Brazil. It was here he the daughter of a politician and eventually settled.
It was in Campinas where he started research on the photograph, by analyzing the properties of silver nitrate and how it reacted when exposed to light. His first experiences with the camera obscura date back to January 1833 and are recorded in the manuscript “Livre d’Annotations Premier et de Matériaux”, where Hercule first uses the word “photographie”, five years before it was used in Europe.
This I guarantee you did not know!
Stay a while with some of my photos of this city, the cradle of photography.
~ Bruno Silva
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