Sergio Larrain (1931-1012) was a Chilean photographer who was active as a professional photographer for a little over 10 years, from the late ’50s through early ’70s. During this relatively short period of time, he managed to amass a beautiful body of work. He worked for Magnum photo from 1959 going on to become a full member in 1961. He was picked for Magnum by one of the original founders of the company Henri Cartier-Bresson who was highly impressed upon reviewing his images and invited him to work for the company asap. Larrains images can be described as visual poetry. His images seem effortlessly stunning even when the photograph itself is of a dire situation. He had a remarkable eye for developing new ways of framing scenes and balancing the parts within. Traces of these developments can be seen in the works of photographers such as Saul Leiter today. Although Sergio Larrain was from a wealthy family he found a connection with those living in poverty and much of his work best work is centered around poverty and children on the streets in Rio Mapuche. His images feel close and connected to the surroundings they show and are heart-wrenching. Larrain left Chile for School in California originally and traveled throughout Europe and the Middle East. He was awarded a grant in 1958 by the British Council to document cities in the country for 8months. This body of work resulting in a book in the early 60’s showing the start of the swinging ’60s. It was also this body of work that so impressed Cartier-Bresson and soon after Larrain was an associate for Magnum and would do various jobs for them over the next decade, including an infiltration of mafia boss Russo in which Larrain was able to pass off as a tourist with a camera. Larrain left photography in the early ’70s, the ever more mysterious man longed to be away from the hustle and bustle of the life that he what was required of him. He went to live in a retreat to focus on yoga and meditation. Not much contact was made with Larrain, a few visits from fellow photographers wanting to know why he left, only for them to be left dismayed by Larrains insistence on them coming to live the same life as he was. Magnums Agnes Sire wrote to him and received many letters over a long period of time and it seems her book on Sergio Larrain is the main source of information on him. Sergio Larrain died in 2012.
“A good picture is born from a state of grace. Grace becomes manifest when one is freed from conventions, free as a child in his first discovery of reality. The game is then to organize the triangle”