Itinerant Photographs

To collect photographs is to collect the world.

—Susan Sontag

Taking and acquiring photographs have long been ways of archiving the world. The works in this section are drawn from two superb Brazilian collections: the Thereza Christina Maria Collection at the National Library of Brazil, assembled by the Brazilian emperor Dom Pedro II (1825–1891), and the Instituto Moreira Salles’s holdings of early Brazilian photographs. These collections offer a glimpse into the transnational history of early photography, as some of the photographs arrived in Rio de Janeiro from Europe, Africa, and North America. Many of them documented scientific advances and the process of modernization. At the same time the circulation of images of Brazil—its landscape and developing cities—solidified modern perceptions of the country. Even as the photographs on view here capture a nation in images, they also confirm that these Brazilian collections were never just Brazilian but were instead created by the movement of photographs across national and cultural borders. 

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