Juan Esteves

O Estado de S. Paulo / Newspaper Date: 10/31/2006, The History of art in Esteves lens, Photographer gathers 138 Brazilian artists of all eras in the book Presença, by Antonio Gonçalves Filho


Photographer Juan Esteves, besides being patient and perfectionist, has another fundamental virtue for a professional in the area: he is persistent. For more than 20 years, he has followed those who made the history of Modern Art and those who make the Contemporary to put together its book Presença/ Presence (Fundação Stickel / Editora Terceiro Nome, 2006), which will be released on the 7th. The result is more than a compendium of known names of painters, sculptors, designers, engravers, photographers, architects and multimedia artists. It is a precious record of those who are gone and of those who are still on the circuit feeding Biennials, Museums and the walls of collectors.

Some of these names were chosen consciously. Others, chance took charge of putting in front of Esteves’ camera during long years dedicated to daily journalism. From Modernist painter Cícero Dias, who died three years ago, to multimedia artist Luiz Martins, 35, are 138 names on a list that covers practically all main movements and schools that emerged after the Art Week of 22. -expressionists are in the volume funded by the Stickel Foundation, whose oldest image dates back to 1985 and shows the architect Lina Bo Bardi, the woman who designed the Museum of Art of São Paulo (MASP) in Santos, on a visit to the city center.

Esteves, at the time, was a young photographic reporter of local newspaper A Tribuna. He was 28 years old and was moving to São Paulo, where he got his name in photojournalism. It was in Folha de S. Paulo, between 1986 and 1994, that he produced most of the photos of the book, always inspired by his master Herman Leonard, the greatest reference and official photographer of Marlon Brando, besides being considered the greatest portraitist of jazz musicians since 1940. Esteves has some behavioral similarities with Herman Leonard, who preferred to photograph the old jazz guard for identifying more with the suffering of the pioneers.

Thus, the best photos of the book capture veterans at crucial moments in their existential experience, such as the epilogue of the life of the painter from Rio Grande do Sul Iberê Camargo (1914-1994), photographed next to his wife in his last exhibition at Galeria Camargo Vilaça, before he died. Another dramatic image is that of the Polish sculptor Frans Krajcberg, 85, a paladino defender of the environment that brings to his face the suffering of those who went through war in Europe and came to the New World to see it destroyed by fires.

The black-and-white, which does not admit of tonal ambiguities, reinforces this drama, as in Leonard’s photographs, but has a different justification in the case of the Brazilian photographer: the family history. Grandson of an architect and a painter, Esteves spent his childhood watching the masters of painting, especially the Spanish. Ribera’s chiaroscuro and other Spanish baroque painters – especially Velazquez – marked his gaze deeply. But that was not all that determined the use of black-and-white. “I never intended to make a realistic photo, but an interpretation of the reality of these artists,” he explains.

Also, like Herman Leonard, Esteves has only been storing these pictures for years, without thinking of making money from them. Instead, the photographer invested much of his time and resources to register the faces of these artists, preferably in their natural habitat, the studio. “Many people helped me when I decided to put these images together in a book, in 1994, especially Fernando Stickel.” Esteves notes that from the beginning, he never intended to make a catalog with the mainstream of Brazilian art, but to group his elective affinities and rescue names such as those of Alexandre Wollner, who created, in 1958, the country’s first design office, or that of the painter and upholsterer Norberto Nicola. “I feel privileged to have lived with and learned from them,” says Esteves, who became friends with many of those photographed, including the designer and engraver Marcello Grassmann.

The book Presença has text by the critic Olívio Tavares de Araújo, who tells the evolution of Brazilian art from Modernism to the youth of the so-called Generation 80. A new project by Juan Esteves should continue along the same line, bringing together portraits of some of the greatest photographers of Brazil, among them the Mexican Graziela Iturbide and the American Joel-Peter Witkin.

Antonio Gonçalves Filho is an art critic for the newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo and the author of several books like First Show ( Cosac e Naify, 2009) and The Wrecked Word – Essays on Cinema (Cosac e Naify, 2001), (Neo Magazine  portifolio and profile )


In: Revista Neo, 17, ano 4, 1997.

“The photographer Juan Esteves has dedicated himself for fourteen years to a singular gallery of portraits of the Brazilian and international cultural fauna. His project transports from jazz to theater and dance, from poetry to architecture, perpetuating on paper what by definition is not. The Man.

There is not any sort of surprise: angle, plane, light, everything, always, under its absolute control.

Perfectionist, Esteves demands the best of the best. What he rescues from the chemical emulsion, however, justifies such obsession. His portraits, in black and white or sepia, are beautiful. The original sizes do not exceed the small and medium size. By definition, what is not grand requires the redoubled attention of the observer.

Juan Esteves basically uses a Leica 35 mm camera and another, Hasselblad, and, experimentally, Juan Esteves has been using polaroid in small and medium formats. The camera’s abrupt movement and the unusual choice of characters suggest an open, intense and lyrical work. Has participated more recently in international exhibitions, such as the exhibition Fografie uit São Paulo, in Sittard, The Netherlands.

Juan also develops a personal work related to the city and its people, producing in Europe, United States, Mexico, Cuba, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Uruguay. ”

Silvio Giannini, Editor and Art Critic, Esteves humanizes famous in” Portraits “

(Criticism, In It Happens, Illustrated, Folha de S.Paulo, 27.11.2000) (About 55 Portraits book released)


“The history of photography, however, shows that although the photographer’s anguish at this time is always the same, there are many ways to resolve a picture.

Annie Leibovitz, in her celebrated series of celebrity portraits, focuses on glamor, reinforcing the image of the media character and removing from her portraits the possibility of being seen as mere mortals.

David LaChapelle (one of Juan’s 55 elected representatives) points his lenses in that direction, but nevertheless, he adds an allegorical environment which, in the end, is as if he is self-photographing all the time.

The “55 Portraits” all in black-and-white, drink at the source of another concept. For Juan it is interesting to see in his notables, not the media face, the armed pose, the effect produced, but the almost unknown being that lies behind the celebrity.

It is not a matter of interpreting the character in the light of his reputation, but of undressing the character to find there an ordinary being, without mannerisms, without frames. Humanism is the motto of these portraits.

Classical framing, precise lighting and exquisite technical rigor give the “55 Portraits” a sobriety and conceptual determination rare to see in professionals specialized in the field.

Eder Chiodetto, Journalist, photography critic of Folha de S. Paulo, curator of Museum of Modern Art (MAM) of São Paulo and author of the book “The Place of the Writer”


Visages ( Photographic Show at Nossa Caixa Bank Gallery, São Paulo, (presentation of the work) November 2004

Capturing the psychology of the pictured is a work for masters. In a portrait, beyond the aesthetic sense – which results, among other things, in the harmony of the composition – the photographer’s lens must penetrate and perpetuate the interior of the character, intruding on his intimacy, to confirm what is known, reinforce what if you suspect or reveal what is unknown. Juan Esteves is a keen photographer, of subtleties, and border, at times, acorn of the look, while trimming the edges and surprising with the more intriguing content. It is worth noting that Esteves is a visagist, a lover of the expression of the face, besides an exquisite esthete. Haughtiness, understanding, curiosity, distrust, detachment, harshness, humanism, humility, irony, malice, mystery, respect, wisdom, security, wisdom, and vanity are some of the attitudes detectable in these 36 poses – order is not logical and any of the portrayed can be included in a range of them. Establishing this intricate game is what the photographer proposes to the observer. And the possibilities are many. For this and that, Juan Esteves is a master.

Antonio Carlos Abdalla

Curator of the Nossa Caixa Bank Gallery, Benedict Calixto Pinacoteca and BM & F Cultural Space.


 Isto É Magazine- Arts and Shows

December 2000

For some time, the task of clicking celebrities has been taken, the photographer from São Paulo, Juan Esteves, has managed the difficult balance of revealing that personal and non-transferable touch of the artist and at the same time printing a signature in the cut, in the chosen light. Always in black and white and bathed in almost pictorial lighting, his beautiful photos of artists such as Hector Babenco, Pedro Almodóvar, Tom Jobim, Plinio Marcos and others no less famous are marked by a mysterious serenity. In their rigor, they exhibit that happy moment in which the person makes a pact with the camera, instinctively letting his vanity appear.

Ivan Claudio

Journalist, columnist, art critic

Folha de S.Paulo – Illustrated – 07/11/2006, Exhibition brings 138 portraits made by Juan Esteves since 1986. By EDER CHIODETTO

Collaboration for Folha de S.Paulo


What can happen in 20 years in the history of the art of a certain place? Is it enough time for artists to emerge, to stand firm, and finally to open unexplored boundaries to new generations?

The 138 portraits of artists from the book “Presença”, which Juan Esteves launches today with an exhibition at the Stickel Foundation in São Paulo, tend to respond affirmatively to this question. Made since 1986, a part of these portraits was made for this Illustrated during the eight years in which Esteves acted as photographic reporter of Folha.

After this period, Esteves took the project forward until it is now a photographic collection of reference about artists of the last 20 years, including, in addition to the plastic artists that are in Presence, a great number of musicians, filmmakers, writers, photographers, architects and artists from other areas, both Brazilian and foreign.

After so much time, gathering these pictures and putting them in perspective, retracing the intricate stories of references of each artist, the schools and trends of each one of them, is an exercise that can constitute a rich mosaic of the history of recent Brazilian art.

It is a mosaic that is not linear and quite intuitive, since it is a storytelling made not with official data but with a sum of expressions and greedy, attentive, afflicted and dreamy looks that permeate the pages of “Presence”.

In the essay that opens the book, the art critic Olívio Tavares de Araújo goes back and sewing, impelled by the portraits of Esteves, the evolutionary steps of art in Brazil, beginning with modernism, which is presented in the book by the portrait of the painter from Pernambuco Cicero Dias (1907-2003).

After that, Esteves goes through other moments – Concretismo, Grupo Rex, Escola Brasil, Geração 80, Ateliê Abstração -, reaching the new generations to mention at the end the insertion of photography in the official circuit of the arts, represented by the portraits of the photographers Sebastião Salgado, Cristiano Mascaro and German Lorca, among others.

Black and white photos

All portraits are in black and white and most of them artists are looking at the camera, usually in their workshops. There is a clear renunciation of the photographer for the search of the flagrant and for images of the artists in activity, for example.

Juan Esteves opts for compositions studied, by the pose and the precise light that sometimes slides into a greater dramatization highlighting the high contrast, sometimes becoming soft and showing the artist enveloped by the environment. But it is in the direction of the artists’ gaze and in the richness of detail that “Presence” gains strength and unity, as well as becoming more closely associated with “straight photography” idealized among others by Edward Weston (1886-1958), in the 1930s.

This type of photography privileges “presentation instead of interpretation”, valuing depth of field and detailing. An effective way for Esteves to talk about his time and his idols by highlighting the humanism of relationships and the belief in art as the driving force of life.


Eder Chiodetto is a photography critic for Folha de S. Paulo newspaper,

writes for Fotosite magazine, is curator of MAM-SP.