Sergio Purtell: Love’s Labour
Every summer from the late 1970s through the mid-’80s Sergio Purtell would buy an inexpensive roundtrip ticket from New York to London, and from there get a Eurail pass. Traveling cheaply, he could move freely around Europe.
Wandering made sense to Purtell. At the age of 18, he fled an imminent dictatorship in Chile. He fell in love with photography, and his art history classes convinced him that he needed to see Europe. When he got there, he was reminded of his life in Santiago: the mannerisms, the customs, the architecture, the relaxed attitude towards life, the mornings in cafes, and afternoons lounging by the cool of a fountain and finishing the day at the local bar with a glass of wine.
“A young man sets out to find his Love. As he traverses the European continent, he learns to forget the past, live in the present, and appreciate the journey. How does one fall in love? By being present, an act that is unavoidable when making pictures in the world. In photography, love is not blind — although many things can, deceptively, go unnoticed: a small gesture, the radiance of a glance, the texture of the skin, the shape of a neck, a flitting blush, downcast eyes, a modest grace. Love can be a connection to something greater than ourselves or the thing that shows us who we are. It requires relentless dedication. The fountains merge with the river and rivers with the ocean and the waves embrace each other.” (Sergio Purtell)
During languid summers around forty years ago (it’s the era of Madonna and Eric Fischl), a young Sergio Purtell crisscrossed Europe searching for scenes where marble mixes with skin. Passing through a landscape of fountains and classical piazzas (and on occasion dropping in on a café), Sergio made frames full of sensuous gestures and complex relationships. With the publication of his first book, the brilliant sun that Sergio captured in silver so long ago can be seen again. (Mark Steinmetz)
About the Author
Sergio Purtell, Chilean b. 1955 in Santiago, Chile, lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
In his current photographic project Real, Sergio Purtell bears witness to the ongoing changes in Brooklyn and areas beyond. As he sees it “the recycling continues, the cities and their landscapes evolve according to the needs of its population.” He documents the architecture and the landscape of an industrial era being abandoned, and the neighborhood communities being displaced.
His visual sensitivity towards landscapes and their people was formed during childhood travels in his native Chile: on the busy streets of Santiago and the lonely expanses of the Pan American Highway. Sergio Purtell emigrated from Chile to the United States in 1973. He received a BFA in photography from RISD (1980) and his MFA from Yale (1982). After teaching photography for several years he moved to New York City to work as a commercial photographer, shooting for design studios, prestigious magazines, and publishers.
At the same time, Purtell established a studio to pursue his love for printing, working first for the Walker Evans Estate. A master printer, he now concentrates his business on photographic printing, continuing to collaborate with artists, galleries, and museums to help actualize their photographic projects. Purtell has also managed to continue his career as a fine artist; his work has been both exhibited and collected worldwide.