Sameer Makarius

Advertising Reflections on Building


Not on display

Sameer Makarius 1924–2009
Original title
Reflejos publicitarios en edificio
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
Image: 277 × 200 mm
Lent by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery, courtesy of Mauro Herlitzka 2011
On long term loan


Advertising Reflections on Building is a black and white photograph that captures the reflection of a sinuous building on the façade of a glass and steel edifice. The horizontal and vertical lines of the façade form a geometric grid that frames the overall structure of the image, while the contrasting architectural styles of the two buildings appear to merge into a hybrid construct, albeit an illusory one. A lamppost is visible in the foreground near the centre of the picture that serves to ground the image in three-dimensional space, interrupting the interplay between the different planes of the picture. Part of a group of photographs taken by Makarius in Buenos Aires during the 1950s, Advertising Reflections on Building reveals his interest in the materials and forms of the modern city and in the coexistence of competing styles of architecture.

Makarius was one of the most prolific photographers in Buenos Aires during the 1950s and 1960s. Born in Cairo in 1924 to an Egyptian father and a German mother, Makarius lived in Berlin as a child, and later Budapest, before moving to Argentina in 1953 where he lived until his death in 2009. While in Budapest during the Second World War, Makarius studied art and began his career as an abstract painter, before turning to photography in the mid-1940s. Quite soon after arriving in Buenos Aires in 1953, Makarius started to record life in the city with his camera. He photographed the city in exhaustive detail, from its best known monuments and buildings to its parks, bars, theatres, lottery shops and hoisting cranes, often homing in on everyday details such as door handles, canaries in cages, or flapping laundry in the street. He visited every neighbourhood in the city, photographing its street vendors, football matches, families on their Sunday afternoon outings, the horse races – any subject that caught his eye. From Liniers to Constitucio´n, from Recoleta to the parks in Palermo, Makarius went everywhere, but especially to La Boca, a working-class riverside neighbourhood located in the capital’s south-eastern corner, once the favoured destination of Italian immigrants.

Makarius’s work is characterised by a classic documentary style that demonstrates not only a sensitive attention to details, but also an awareness of the ability of each image to transcend its subject matter and convey an essence of the city depicted. Some of his compositions, with their oblique angles and cropped viewpoints, show the influence of avant-garde photography from Europe, and in particular constructivist photography, which Makarius would have been familiar with from his time in Germany and Hungary.

The artist published his exhaustive visual chronicles of Buenos Aires in 1960 in his first book Buenos Aires y su gente (Buenos Aires and its People), followed by a second book Buenos Aires, mi ciudad (Buenos Aires, My City) published in 1963.

Further reading
Córdova Iturburu, ‘Introduction’, in Sameer Makarius, Buenos Aires y su gente, Buenos Aires 1960, unpaginated.
Sameer Makarius, Buenos Aires, mi ciudad, Buenos Aires 1963.
Sameer Makarius, Makarius: Retratos / Portraits, ed. by María Torres, Buenos Aires 2007.

Iria Candela and Gaia Tedone
June 2012

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