Port workers to stock brokers, poets to future presidents, revolutionaries to rural workers, the breadth and skill of Marcos Chamudes’ (1907-1989) work provides a unique insight into Chilean identity through culture, industry and politics.
Currently on display at Santiago’s Museo Histórico Nacional, for the first time more than 50 of Chamudes’ images — taken during the 1940s and 1950s — are accompanied by several portraits and quotes of the artist himself providing a look at the man behind the lens.
Of Jewish origin, Chamudes’ family came to South America to escape from persecution in Russia at the end of the 19th century. Settling in Santiago, the young Marcos received a good education from the renowned Instituto Nacional before becoming involved in politics as a student and later serving as a congressman for the Limache region in central Chile.
Chamudes later left politics behind to move to New York where he enrolled in the prestigious School of Modern Photography, coming into contact with giants of the genre such as Alfred Stieglitz and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Going on to work as a photographer during the Second World War and later for the United Nations in Europe before returning to South America to cover a Bolivian revolutionary movement, Chamudes gained extensive experience of documentary photography alongside his well-known portrait work.
Among his portrait subjects were future president Salvador Allende, Pablo Picasso and Chilean poets Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral.
Perhaps his greatest achievement was having his image of a Bolivian miner chosen to feature in Edward Steichen’s renowned Family of Man exhibition in the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1955.
Chamudes’ work helped establish a foundation which has been built on by subsequent generations of Chilean artists. One example is Tomás Munita who was recently named photographer of the year for Ibero-America in the Pictures of the Year Latam 2013 (POY LatAm) photojournalism competition.
Running until mid-July, “Marcos Chamudes, Fotógrafo” is open Tuesdays-Sundays and offers guided tours between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. at no additional cost.
By Sam Edwards