Dec 4, 2006

How a lost Peruvian work made its way to Houston

311xinlinegallery.jpgSource: Houston Chronical
Written by Patricia C. Johnson

In Arequipa, an elegant Peruvian city in the high mountain desert 630 miles south of Lima, two photography connoisseurs discovered a lost world of 1920s elegance.

Beginning in 1999, Adelma Benavente of Arequipa and Houston-based photographer Peter Yenne sorted, inventoried and sometimes restored approximately 15,000 glass negatives from the archives of Estudios de Arte Hermanos Vargas.

In moody black-and-white photos, the Vargas brothers documented fashion, celebrities and the gorgeous city itself.

At Houston FotoFest, Benavente and Yenne have installed City of Night, an exhibit of approximately 80 digital prints and a few archival ones, dated 1912 to 1930, from the historic Estudio Vargas.

City of Night is the first in-dept retrospective of the extraordinary work of Carlos and Miguel Vargas (1885-1979), the inseparable brothers who established the most successful and influential photo studio of their time in the southern Andes, In addition to their photographic work, they hosted art exhibits, poetry readings, musical recitals and international celebrities in their beautifully appointed gallery,

Lifelong residents of Arequipa, the Vargas Brothers left behind an elegant, poetic and unforgettable visual elegy to the city they knew so well, City of Night offers an extraordinary glimpse of a vanished world, the vibrant Creole society of southern Peru in the early 20th century. The exhibit is curated and produced by Peter Yenne and Adelma Benavente, co-founders of the Photographic Archive Project, a Houston non-profit organization dedicated to the study and conservation of photo archives in the developing world. FotoFest International is sponsoring the U.S. premiere of the City of Night.

Last week Benavente and Yenne discussed the project. (Parts of the interview conducted in Spanish have been translated.)

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