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From early on, Otto Stupakoff’s adventure impregnated us with a possible dream. Otto was the incarnation of everything that we – a generation of Brazilian photographers now in our 40s – yearned for in our youthful daydreams of taking the world by storm. He embodied, like few others, the figure of the charming, lady-killing photographer, surrounded by glamour on all sides. He traveled the world, lived in its best places, married some of its most beautiful women and, above all, photographed with elegance melded with his soul. In short, everything that had lived in our imaginations configured more clearly during our immersion in the preparation of this exhibition.

We found an identity in his pictures, “a particular eye”, an unparalleled style: the aestheticization of his own life. Snapshots from a weekend picnic in the French countryside with his wife Margareta and two of his five children could have featured in the fashion spreads of any of the important magazines of the day and certainly resemble his commissioned work. “Forever in search of beauty”, as he so frequently said.

Otto never rested, nor did he allow himself to fall for the cheap trick of exoticism and folklorization so common among Brazilians on the New York-Paris-London scene; on the contrary, he was accepted by the the fashion and style-mag cliques of the time. His delicate portraits are complete proof of this. Among those who sat for him were President Nixon and his daughter Julie Nixon Eisenhower in the White House Gardens, the actress Sophia Loren at her home in Via Apia, the writer Truman Capote in his baroque New York apartment, Grace Kelly and Princess Stephanie on the grounds of the palace in Monte-Carlo, and Tom Jobim in Rio de Janeiro in the early days of Bossa Nova.

In fact, the concision, the economy of effect, the colloquial tone, the apparently frivolous content of his photographs invites comparison to precisely that Rio-based musical movement that was to project Brazil into the world. Despite hailing from Tatuapé in São Paulo, Otto was deeply affected by the Bossa Nova lyricism of that urban and charming Brazil prefigured in the late 50s and early 60s and which would unfortunately be lost in the decades that followed.

Otto emigrated to New York at the beginning of the 60s, swept along on the crest of this wave. Like Tom Jobim and Sergio Mendes – who he often photographed and who became a long-standing and close friend – Otto conquered the world. In the 90s he drastically reduced his photographic output in order to concentrate on painting and collage.

Nowadays, when everything is ruled by rush and overexposure is the norm, Otto has become increasingly more rare, perhaps because there is no longer space for the delicacy, grace and immense humanism of his vision. The pictures collected here have resisted erosion by various fads that have come and gone since their production. They are the diamonds, the pride we have sifted from a life and career that have known no half tones.

With Otto Stupakoff, it is and always has been All or Nothing.



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