“The Unruliness of Leisure”: Photographs of European Summers from 1979-1984
Every summer from the late 1970s through the mid ’80s photographer Sergio Puritell 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 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