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Revolution and photography in comparative perspective: the work of Tina Modotti in Mexico (1923-1930) and Alberto Korda in Cuba (1959-1968)

Grant number: 19/09422-1
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Master
Effective date (Start): August 01, 2019
Effective date (End): October 31, 2021
Field of knowledge:Humanities - History - History of America
Principal Investigator:Mariana Martins Villaça
Grantee:Vinicius Lourenço Barbosa
Host Institution: Escola de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (EFLCH). Universidade Federal de São Paulo (UNIFESP). Campus Guarulhos. Guarulhos , SP, Brazil


The objective of this research is to analyze historically, in comparative perspective, the photographs taken by Tina Modotti (1923-1930) in Mexico and by Alberto Korda (1959-1968) in Cuba, in the political contexts that followed the revolutions experienced by those countries. Both photographers became references to the visual history produced in the contexts of the institutionalization of the respective revolutions and their works interacted with the identity elements associated with "Mexicanness" and "Cubanity", just as these constructions were then conceived by the current cultural policy projects and debated intensely in the cultural environment. Both experienced professional trajectories initiated as photographers outside the political field and began to cover, in their own way, the discourses on the transformations provided by the revolutions in those countries, experiencing a gradual political engagement. His works bring representations of the historical processes in which they have been inserted, echoing dilemmas and debates about the role of photography in each context. They dialogue with advertising, photojournalism, artistic vanguards, assuming elements of artistic experimentalism and political engagement, which will be analyzed in each context and comparatively, with the perspective of reflecting on the aesthetic aspects and the political milestones of these productions in two different revolutionary contexts but crossed by common dilemmas regarding the role of the artist and the reconfiguration of national identity. Mexico and Cuba lived the consequences of revolutionary processes that implied the establishment of new governments and projects of Nation, among which artists, intellectuals and rulers sought to define the parameters of cultural politics. In this way, the photographs will be analyzed as historical documents considering the relationship of these photographers with the new powers instituted, with the communist militancy, with the networks of sociability to which they belonged and with the debates on cultural politics and on the direction of the revolution in each country. We believe that the comparative analysis of the representations of revolutions and people present in their photographs, as well as the focus of issues common to the professional trajectories of both will allow us to reflect on what is similar and different about dilemmas, challenges and paradigms of "revolutionary" art present in two striking revolutionary processes in Latin America in the twentieth century, both marked by intense adhesion and burning polemics by intellectuals and artists. We also believe that the comparison will make it possible to delineate the permanences and changes in the aesthetic dialogues that marked the works of these two famous photographers (temporarily separated by about 30 years) in order to reflect on the existence or not of a consolidated visual repertoire of a social nature, or a tradition of "representations of Revolution" in Latin America. Finally, the comparative study that we propose to do also intends to contribute to the historiographic reflections about the relations between art and power, in the context of the Revolutions in question. (AU)

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