Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Art History


Anna Indych-López


Katherine Manthorne

Committee Members

M. Antonella Pelizzari

Edward J. Sullivan

Subject Categories

Graphic Design | Modern Art and Architecture | Museum Studies | Printmaking | Theory and Criticism | Visual Studies


Photography, Brazil, São Paulo, Architecture, Urban Design, Propaganda


Between 1930 and 1955 São Paulo, Brazil experienced a period of accelerated growth as the population nearly quadrupled from 550,000 to two million. In response, the municipal government undertook an aggressive public works program and commercial building boomed. Photographic representations of the cityscape were essential in directing modern São Paulo’s physical evolution because they reflected both the real—a chaotically growing megacity—and the ideal—a literally new, modernized space. This dissertation centers on four case studies of artists practicing different photographic modalities in order to analyze the symbiotic relationship between São Paulo's urban development and its photographic representation.

Construction sites, scaffolding, and building materials were ubiquitous in modern Paulistano visual culture. Chapter one discusses photography’s incorporation of construction materials and processes through the fine art photography of Geraldo de Barros, arguing that these elements framed the way the city was seen and interpreted, offered new viewpoints, and shaped the city’s identity as a space continually in-process. Chapter two builds on this foundation, explaining how photographs of skyscrapers (both those already built and those still under-construction) by early Brazilian photojournalist Hildegarde Rosenthal fueled ufanista, or patriotic, rhetoric that promoted São Paulo as an icon of national progress and located its modernity in its vertical rise. This chapter also examines the relationship between words and photographs in the popular press, suggesting that the city itself transformed into a text to be read as it was navigated. Evaluating the role of São Paulo’s citizens in determining the shape of their city, chapter three analyzes photographs published in albums heralding the city’s four hundredth anniversary in 1954. The books overwhelmingly linked regional modernism to a European legacy that excluded many Paulistanos on the basis of race, class, or gender. I argue that marginalizing these groups also marginalized their civic interests, altering the urban landscape. Documentary photographer Alice Brill’s production is an exception to this rule and demonstrates a rare example of the “social documentary” mode operating in Brazil. Finally, the fourth chapter traces the development of São Paulo’s advertising industry via the commercial photography of Hans Gunter Flieg, explaining how the broad definition of the term “propaganda” in Portuguese serves to link the country’s public and private sectors. Here, my analysis focuses on advertising photographs that exploited urban imagery and embellished public space.