(American, b. 1955 in Santiago, Chile, lives and works in Brooklyn, NY)
Purtell’s, most recent project, Love’s Labour, published July 1st, 2020 by Stanley Barker London, reveals images from Purtell’s Summers in Europe, from 1979 to 1984, where the young photographer would buy an inexpensive roundtrip ticket from New York to London, and from there get a Eurail pass so he could move freely and cheaply around Europe. Paris, Monaco, London, Madrid, Berlin, reminded Purtell strangely of his life in Santiago. Europe was a strange new world yet familiar with its mannerisms, customs, architecture, and relaxed attitude towards life, the mornings in cafes, and afternoons lounging by the cool of a fountain, and finishing the day at the local bar with a glass of wine.
“A young man sets out to find his Love. As he traverses the European continent, he learns to forget the past, live in the present, and appreciate the journey. How does one fall in love? By being present, an act that is unavoidable when making pictures in the world. In photography, love is not blind—although many things can, deceptively, go unnoticed: a small gesture, the radiance of a glance, the texture of skin, the shape of a neck, a flitting blush, downcast eyes, a modest grace. Love can be a connection to something greater than ourselves, or the thing that shows us who we are. It requires relentless dedication. The fountains merge with the river and rivers with the ocean and the waves embrace each other.”
- Sergio Purtell
In his photographic project, Real, Sergio Purtell chose to bear witness to ongoing gentrification of areas in Brooklyn, NY, and Massachusetts. As “the cycle and recycle continues and the cities and their landscapes evolve according to the needs of the population,” he documents the architecture and landscape of industrial era being abandoned, and traditional neighborhood communities displaced. His visual sensitivity towards landscapes and their people, was formed during his childhood travels across the Chilean landscape, both busy streets of Santiago, and lonely expanses of the PanAmerican Highway to Patagonia. Purtell also credits the obsessive narratives of Chilean author Roberto Bolaño among his most important influences, which also include photographers Tod Papageorge and Richard Benson, both his university mentors, who encouraged him to return to artistic photography. Sergio Purtell moved from his native Santiago de Chile to the US in 1973. He received his BFA in photography from the RISD, where he studied with Paul Krot (Sprint Systems of Photography). He earned a MFA at Yale (1982), where he studied with Richard Benson, master printer, photographer and teacher. His visual photographic language was formed by Harry Callahan and Tod Papageorge. Purtell went on to teach photography in New Haven until he moved to New York City in the mid-1980’s.
As fine art photographer he has been exhibiting worldwide, with most interest in his work in Europe. In the 1990s he turned to commercial photography and worked for design studios, prestigious magazines and publishers. Purtell went on to pursue his love of fine art printing and in 1996 opened print studio Black and White on White, printing works of distinguished photographers (his first job was for the Walker Evans estate). The studio is now located in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where he continues his collaboration with other photographers, and again works on his own fine art photography.
see attached pdf for exhibitions and bibliography: