Sameer Makarius

Kavanagh Building under the Fog

1954

Artist
Sameer Makarius 1924–2009
Original title
Edificio Kavanagh bajo la niebla
Medium
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
Dimensions
Image: 225 x 297 mm
Collection
Lent by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery, courtesy of Mauro Herlitzka 2011
On long term loan
Reference
L02987

Summary

Kavanagh Building under the Fog is a black and white photograph depicting a skyscraper in the city of Buenos Aires called the Kavanagh Building, which rises up from the bottom of the image into a foggy sky. Completely obscured by the fog, the top of the skyscraper appears to dissolve into the pale sky, with the summit rendered entirely invisible. In the foreground, a series of dark, thin wires creates a pattern that intersects the silhouette of the building. The thickest wires form the shape of an arch through the centre of the composition that begins in the top left-hand corner, bending round towards the right before curving into the distance towards the bottom left-hand corner. Part of a group of photographs taken by Makarius in Buenos Aires during the 1950s, Kavanagh Building under the Fog reveals his skills as a photographer of modern architecture and his ability to capture the industrial features of the cityscape.

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

Display caption

Cairo-born Sameer Makarius studied painting and abstraction in Hungary and travelled across Europe before moving to Argentina in the 1950s. He established himself as one of the most prolific photographers of the time, taking thousands of pictures of the vibrant city of Buenos Aires and of the immigrant neighbourhood of ‘La Boca’. Makarius published several books and founded ‘Forum’, a group of photographers engaged in the promotion of photography as fine art. This selection of vintage prints focuses on architectural details and patterns of the city’s modern landscape.

Gallery label, May 2012

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