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