Daydreams in Black and White

A journey drifting through Athos Bulcão's photomontages.

By Fundação Athos Bulcão

An American in Paris (1953) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Films on Paper

Starting out

I did a huge series of photomontages from 1952 to 1955. I later started to do photomontages applied to architecture. [...] I'd come back from Europe, where I'd had a scholarship, and I saw that I couldn't live from my painting.

The prisioner’s dream (1953) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

I was doing interior design but I didn't like that very much. What I wanted was to do something that wasn't photography, or theater, or cinema." 

Athos Bulcão

The prisioner (1952) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Movement on paper

I started cutting out figures and putting them next to one another. It's an exercise in framing. It's something that, in my head, is perhaps linked to cinema, to movement. I'd make up little films about them.

Athos Bulcão

Invitation to drift

Sport and Comfort (1952) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Capturing the viewer

"Athos gives narrative names to some of his photomontages: The view of Moscow - Life on Board is Lively (O olho de Moscou - Animada é a vida a bordo), Mrs. Vanderbilt's Nightmare (O pesadelo da Sra. Vanderbilt), Who Knows, in New Orleans? (Quem sabe, em Nova Orleans?). In others, he resorts to enigmatic names: The Double (O duplo), The Prisoner (A prisioneira), The Abyss (O Abismo). In all of them, he uses names that invite the viewer to drift, when we are captured inside his photo-movies, as Einstein explained."

The ballerina (1956) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

The artist revealed

“[...] When you look at the matrices in the photomontages, this merging of different sources can be seen in the different gray tones, in the different grain sizes from reticulation and the resulting differences in image definition, in the brush or pencil marks made by the artist." 


Marília Panitz

The eye of Moscow - Life on board is lively (1952) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Space and Movement

“[...] The idea of merging temporal (and narrative) representation into a single image (as if suddenly seeing it for the first time) already featured in his earlier work and he retained this approach throughout his art and architecture integration work.”


Marília Panitz

Children in Venice (1952) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Sequential plan

“[...] The artist 'tones' the image, through test prints and darkroom work, until the desired result is reached and this is then multiplied in numbered series."

Marília Panitz 

The cathouse (1953) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

The Martian invasion (1952) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

The death of a bullfighter (1952) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Eye and technique

The picnic (1953) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Image and logic

"Athos' work seeks to maintain, in the pasted parts, a relationship between photography and its logic. The montage formed partially from photographs is re-photographed for the new print

Charity Ball (1953) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

"In this way, the artist is able to achieve a uniformity in the surface and treatment, as the photographic code demands". 

Paulo Herkenhof

Who knows, in New Orleans? (1953) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Subverting the rules

Athos gets the balance of the montage right: the proportions of the cut-outs, the tones in the photographs, the light sources, the logical relationships between the parts (so he can then subvert them)."

"The thoroughness shown in integrating the key details and rephotographing the image for the new relationship are stages in producing the final version of the photomontage". 

Paulo Herkenhof

Travel memories - The Tourist I (1952) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Travel memories - The tourist II (1953) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

The pub (1953) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Art and banality

The photograph looks 'normal' (surface, light, tones, proportions) except for the fact that … the head doesn't match the body, there's a rhino in the mix." 

Untitled by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Untitled by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

"Athos does not make the image more reliable than the real world. Surprise, criticism, and humor produce a new 'pathos' for the old sameness in photographs, which have become trite through being an everyday medium." 

Paulo Herkenhof

Credits: Story

Fundação Athos Bulcão
Selection of excerpts and images: Vitor Borysow

Citações de Athos Bulcão: 
Habitante do Silêncio. Entrevista concedida a Carmem Moretzsohn. Jornal de Brasília, 2 de julho de 1998. In: Athos Bulcão. ed. 2. Editora Fundação Athos Bulcão. Brasília. 2009     

Textos de "Convite à deriva" retirados do artigo de Marília Panitz, "O imaginário segundo Athos Bulcão". Catálogo da Exposição 100 Anos de Athos Bulcão. Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, 2018-2019.

Textos de "Olhar e técnica" retirados do artigo de Paulo Herkenhoff, "Para ver melhor Athos Bulcão". In: Athos Bulcão. ed. 2. Editora Fundação Athos Bulcão. Brasília. 2009    

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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