Sameer Makarius

Shutter in a House of La Boca


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Sameer Makarius 1924–2009
Original title
Persiana de casona de La Boca
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
Image: 237 × 297 mm
Purchased with funds provided by Jack Kirkland 2012


Shutter in a House of La Boca is a black and white, close-up depiction of a corrugated wall of a house in the immigrant neighbourhood of La Boca in Buenos Aires. The horizontal grooves in the wall create contrasting parallel bands of light and shadow that occupy the majority of the image from top to bottom. A metal drainage pipe marks the vertical axis of the picture in the very centre of the composition while a wooden window frame can be seen at the left-hand edge of the image. Two dark holes to the left of the pipe introduce a circular motif into the otherwise linear structure of the image. A sense of balance is achieved by the intersection of horizontal and vertical lines, while the tight framing of the image discloses small imperfections on the surfaces of the house, such as rust and streaks in the metalwork. Part of a group of photographs taken by Makarius in Buenos Aires during the 1950s, Shutter in a House of La Boca reveals his interest in blurring the boundaries between representation and abstraction through photographic means, and his fascination with the distinctive architectural character of the city.

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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