Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Brazilian memory pillaged

This is not new, but it is worth reposting. I found it at:

Disappearance of hundreds of rare photographs: Brazilian memory pillaged

Maia Menezes, O Globo newspaper, Rio de Janeiro, July 20, 2005

The balance of the strike (three months long) of the servers of the Ministry of the Culture was negative for the National Library in Brazil.

Last night, when handling for the first time some works of the collection after the stoppage, technicians of the library had evidenced the disappearance of hundreds of rare photographs - so far 150 had been catalogued.

The inventory was still not concluded, but the president of the foundation, Pedro Corrêa do Lago, already identified that works of at least four photographers had disappeared - Brazilian photographer Marc Ferrez, the Germans August Stahl and Guillermo Liebenau and English Benjamin Mulock - that had eternalized images of Brazil of the XIX Century.

-- We are still making a list (of the stolen works), that will be spread to prevent that good-faith people buy the photos - Pedro Corrêa do Lago said. The Environment and Heritage Department of the Federal Police will make a hearing of the employees who had noticed the disappearance, registered yesterday. According to some workers of the National Library Foundation, the photographs had dimensions equivalents to three postcards. They stand out that the thieves had substituted the stolen photographs for others, also antiques, but without any value. This can be an indication of that the involved people in the robbery had free access to the collection.

The photographs had been seen by the last time three months ago, when they had been presented to a delegation of the Library of the Congress of the United States, in a visit to the Foundation.

According to the President, private security guards contracted by the Foundation had worked all time during the period of the strike. Technician of the National Library had informed that the strikers had stopped 300 contracted men and 300 full time employees that worked there, but the security had access to the building. In

accordance with the Union of the Federal Public Servers, they always had the presence of the direction in the places where the adhesion to the strike was of 100%.

The photographer Peter Karp Vasquez, author of the book "Brazil in the XIX C. photograph", characterized the robbery as a calamity:

- These photos have a very great symbolic value. It was a collection donated to the nation by the Emperor Dom Pedro II. It was distributed between the National Museum, the Geographic Historical Institute and the National Library. It shows the importance of this for the sewing of the national identity. This robbery is truly a cultural attempted. Our history was pillaged.

Each photo can be worth R$ 5,000 [about US$ 2,200].

The Brazilian historian Milton Teixeira also remembers that the works are a part of some 48.236 albums and photographs of the Teresa Cristina Maria collection (named after Dom Pedro II's wife), left in will for the Emperor.

In the evaluation of Milton Teixeira, the photographs could separately be sold for an esteem value of R$ 5,000 [about US$ 2,200] each. - This is the most fabulous collection of Latin America that could easily be sold if it will not have an acknowledgment. It has an increasing market of auctions and the collectors are known - the historian said. Other photos of August Stahl and Marc Ferrez had been saved of the robbery because they are in Paris until December. This collection, of about 50 photos, is displayed in the Musée d'Orsay.

The German photographer August Stahl registered the construction in Pernambuco, in 1858 and 1859, of the second railroad of Brazil. Marc Ferrez, born in Rio de Janeiro and son of a French sculptor, was contracted in 1860 as official photographer of the Court. The photographs of Benjamin Mulock portray the construction of the fifth Brazilian railroad, in Bahia; the German photographer Guillermo Liebenau registered mining images of Ouro Preto and other cities of Minas Gerais in the XIX Century.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Encyclopaedia of 19th-Century Photography

John Vignoles, a direct descendant of the engineers who designed and built the Bahia and San Francisco Railway - and hired Mulock to photograph the works - joined forces with Sabrina Gledhill to co-author an essay on "Ben" for the Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography (ed. John Hannavy), which will be published in August 2007. Sabrina also wrote an essay on the Swiss-born Brazilian photographer Guilherme (Wilhelm) Gaensly for the encyclopaedia. According to the publishers (Routledge):

The Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography is the first comprehensive encyclopedia of world photography up to the beginning of the twentieth century. It sets out to be the standard, definitive reference work on the subject for years to come.
Its coverage is global – an important ‘first’ in that authorities from all over the world have contributed their expertise and scholarship towards making this a truly comprehensive publication. The Encyclopedia presents new and ground-breaking research alongside accounts of the major established figures in the nineteenth century arena.
Coverage includes all the key people, processes, equipment, movements, styles, debates and groupings which helped photography develop from being ‘a solution in search of a problem’ when first invented, to the essential communication tool, creative medium, and recorder of everyday life which it had become by the dawn of the twentieth century.

The sheer breadth of coverage in the 1200 essays makes the Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography an essential reference source for academics, students, researchers and libraries worldwide.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Mrs. Dinah Craik, née Mulock

Because Mulock's sister Dinah was a famous author who has lately become a feminist icon, some information about Ben's life has been published in relation to her, particularly in Sally Mitchell's Dinah Mulock Craik. Mitchell describes Ben as a flighty, even inconsiderate brother who took off for Australia as soon as he could get his hands on his inheritance, abandoning his sister at a time when women needed male protection. His work as a photographer is presented as a hobby or flight of fancy: "Ben drifted back from Australia, having given up engineering for photography. It is impossible to penetrate sufficiently between the lines of Victorian reticence to discover whether his difficulty was drink, opium, or mental instability..." [1]

Sunday, June 12, 2005

About Benjamin Mulock

Benjamin Mulock is acclaimed in Brazil as one of the finest landscape photographers of the 19th century. He was in Bahia from November 1, 1859 until April 1852, photographing the works of the Bahia & São Francisco Railway Company. In 1860, he presented Emperor Pedro II with an album of his photographs of the city of Salvador - then called Bahia. Those photos are now housed in Brazil's National Library in Rio de Janeiro, and for many years, they were believed to be the only existing examples of Mulock's work.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Benjamin Mulock in 1858

About this Project

As part of a project being organized by Ubaldo Senna, Erika Aragão and Luiz Guilherme Dias Tavares in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, I am researching a biography of the 19th-century British photographer Benjamin Robert Mulock (1829-1863). This blog will report the progress of the research so far. If you have any information about Mulock, particularly the whereabouts of his photographs of Bahia in collections outside Brazil, please send me an email or contact Erika Aragão.