In this thesis I consider the influence of Alice Brill's transnational background on her photographs of 1950s São Paulo. Brill was born in 1920 to a Jewish-German family. In 1934 she immigrated to São Paulo where she involved herself in local artistic circles. From 1946-47 she received a grant to study at the University of New Mexico and with the Art Students League in New York. Brill learned photography during her time in the United States, hoping to create documentary photo-essays in Brazil which she could send to American illustrated magazines. None of Brillss works were published in the United States, however, on returning to São Paulo in 1948 Brill was invited by Pietro Maria Bardi, Director of the Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, to "record the daily life of the citizens of São Paulo". Bardi intended the photographs to be published as an homage to the city's 400th anniversary, but lacked sufficient funding to complete the volume. Brill's images of São Paulo depict the metropolis in a way unique during the period: as a space shared by multi-racial communities. While many photographers and publications metaphorically white-washed the city by depicting only its most Europeanized attributes, Brill consciously sought out underrepresented groups, specifically the burgeoning Afro-Brazilian community. Brill's point of view was shaped by her international upbringing and training: her experience as an outsider compelled her to document other outsider communities in São Paulo. She recognized the traditions of representation already in place in Brazil and manipulated familiar types in order to represent the nation's true hybridity. Influences on her work include: the long history of part-artistic, part-anthropological studies of the Brazilian people; local photographic traditions for picturing the city and its inhabitants; the European photojournalist style introduced to Brazil in 1944; and the international sensibility of Brill's patrons, the Bardis. I attempt to show how Brill balanced these considerations with her own personal understanding of Brazil as a multivalent space.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Visual Arts



Date Submitted


Document Type





Brazil, Sao Paulo, Alice Brill, Photography, Documentary, Transnational, 1950



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Art Practice Commons