The Guilherme Gaensly Collection at MIS

A human landscape.

By Museu da Imagem e do Som

Coffee plantation (1900) by Guilherme Gaensly#0 Reproduction Antônio Bellia#1Museu da Imagem e do Som

Photographer Guilherme Gaensly (1843–1928) was born in Wellhausen, Switzerland. In 1848, his parents immigrated to Brazil, settling in Salvador. In that city, still at a young age, he began his professional activity, working with a partner at the Gaensly & Lindemann photographic studio. Around 1892, he took up residence in São Paulo, establishing his studio, Photographia Gaensly, at Rua XV de Novembro number 28, later moving to Rua Boa Vista number 39, in 1911, for commercial reasons.

As a portraitist and landscape photographer, he served his many clients in his studio in the capital. In addition to the capital's urbanization process, Gaensly's lenses capture the landscape of coffee farms in the interior of São Paulo state. Displaying great technical mastery, the photographer was commissioned by the State government to carry out photographic documentation of the entire coffee cultivation process—planting, harvesting, processing and transport by railroad to the Port of Santos, where production was then exported.

Coffee plantation (1900) by Guilherme Gaensly#0 Reproduction Antônio Bellia#1Museu da Imagem e do Som

His work circulated mainly on postcards, albums and illustrated periodicals, and remained as a comprehensive iconography of the São Paulo landscape at the beginning of the 20th century.

Our reading opens up to the living conditions, the practices of existence, tensions and relationships between men and women, which have irrefutably set in motion this production chain.

Coffee harvest. The baskets and bags are used to organize the harvest of the grains in standard measurements for commercialization. In the 1880s, the region surpassed coffee production in the Paraíba Valley. (1900) by Guilherme Gaensly#0 Reproduction Antônio Bellia#1Museu da Imagem e do Som

Pau d'alho Farm (1900) by Guilherme Gaensly#0 Reproduction Antônio Bellia#1Museu da Imagem e do Som

Virgin forest. Cutting down the trees is the first step in order to ready the land for agriculture. After three or four years, there is the first harvest. The maximum production can occur between six and eight years. Depending on the technique applied, the productive cycle of a plant could last twenty or even forty years. (1900) by Guilherme Gaensly#0 Reproduction Antônio Bellia#1Museu da Imagem e do Som

Cutting down the trees is the first step in order to ready the land for agriculture.

After three or four years, there is the first harvest. The maximum production can occur between six and eight years. Depending on the technique applied, the productive cycle of a plant could last twenty or even forty years.

Coffee drying. With the aid of wooden rakes, workers spent the day on the patio revolving the coffee beans, so that they could dry evenly heated by the sun and avoid accumulation of moisture and fermentation, which could seriously compromise the quality of the product. At the end of the day, the production could be stored so that it could be sheltered from the weather, or divided into small piles and covered with fabric. (1900) by Guilherme Gaensly#0 Reproduction Antônio Bellia#1Museu da Imagem e do Som

Coffee drying. With the aid of wooden rakes, workers spent the day on the patio revolving the coffee beans, so that they could dry evenly heated by the sun and avoid accumulation of moisture and fermentation, which could seriously compromise the quality of the product. At the end of the day, the production could be stored so that it could be sheltered from the weather, or divided into small piles and covered with fabric.

Guatapará Farm – Workers on a drying patio. (1900) by Guilherme Gaensly#0 Reproduction Antônio Bellia#1Museu da Imagem e do Som

Coffee patio (1900) by Guilherme Gaensly#0 Reproduction Antônio Bellia#1Museu da Imagem e do Som

Coffee drying patio. The patios need a flat terrain that allows for maximum incidence of the sun's heat. This process took up to two months, depending on climatic conditions. (1900) by Guilherme Gaensly#0 Reproduction Antônio Bellia#1Museu da Imagem e do Som

Farmers and rural workers on a coffee patio. (1900) by Guilherme Gaensly#0 Reproduction Antônio Bellia#1Museu da Imagem e do Som

Two distinct groups make up the scene. On the foreground, a group of farmers posing for a portrait, certain of their leading role, clearly aware what occurs in the background.

And on the background, a group of rural workers who, since they are busy handling the bags (60 kilos of coffee), do not pose as solemnly for the picture.

Coffee harvest (1900) by Guilherme Gaensly#0 Reproduction MIS#1Museu da Imagem e do Som

Promise of prosperity

This photomontage circulated widely as a postcard. This resource almost passed unnoticed if the original photographs were not equally disseminated.

The choice to combine the workforce of European immigrants with the strength of the 800,000-tree plantation reveals the intention to reinforce the discourse of republican progress, almost a promise of prosperity for the new lands.

Guatapará Farm – 800,000 coffee plants, Guilherme Gaensly, 1900, From the collection of: Museu da Imagem e do Som
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Attracting the much-desired labor of European workers to coffee farms required forceful propaganda, necessary to deconstruct the image of a backward country, associated with slavery and monarchy.

Coffee harvest. Record of the moment of work that brings together the entire family nucleus, including children, during the harvest of the coffee beans, called strip-picking. (1900) by Guilherme Gaensly#0 Reproduction Antônio Bellia#1Museu da Imagem e do Som

In 1877, the first significant group of Italian immigrants - around 2000 people - arrive in São Paulo. In 1888, the year of Brazil's abolition of slavery, there is the registered entry of 80 thousand people into the State. In the next decade, according to the passenger lists from ships, more than 1,4 million Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and German immigrants arrived at the Porto de Santos, going to the farms in the countryside.

Santa Cruz Farm (1900) by Guilherme GaenslyMuseu da Imagem e do Som

Beautiful Italy, be kind and your children will not forsake you, or they will all go to Brazil, and will not mind returning. They would have something to work on here without having to emigrate to America. [...]

[...]
The present century already leaves us, the nineteen-hundred is approaching. Hunger is on our face and there is no remedy to cure it. Every time you hear people say: I’ll go there, where there is coffee to harvest.

The song Italia bella, mostrati gentile. (Unknown authorship, 1899)

Rural worker and a coffee plant (1900) by Guilherme Gaensly#0 Reproduction Antônio Bellia#1Museu da Imagem e do Som

Rural worker and a coffee plant 

It is important to remember that the workforce of Europeans called immigrants and the enslaved workforce coexisted due to late abolitionist concessions, which occurred between 1850 and 1888.

The prohibition of trafficking on slave ships across the Atlantic, starting in 1850, with the Eusébio de Queiroz Act, stimulated interprovincial traffic from the declining sugar cane crops in the Northeast, in order to meet the demand for labor on coffee farms in the Paraíba Valley and in the central region of the State. 

Lapa Farm. On the left, there is the slave quarter. In the background, the mansion with two floors, the engine room and other facilities. (1900) by Guilherme Gaensly#0 Reproduction Antônio Bellia#1Museu da Imagem e do Som

On the left, there is the slave quarter. In the background, the mansion with two floors, the engine room and other facilities.

Bags of coffee, weighing 60 kilos each, on the field., Guilherme Gaensly#0 Reproduction Antônio Bellia#1, 1900, From the collection of: Museu da Imagem e do Som
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Coffee farm main house (1900) by Guilherme Gaensly#0 Reproduction Antônio Bellia#1Museu da Imagem e do Som

Palestina Farm. In addition to the houses, the colonies intended for immigrants housed small businesses, which were also places for social gathering. (1900) by Guilherme Gaensly#0 Reproduction Antônio Bellia#1Museu da Imagem e do Som

Santa Veridiana Farm (1900) by Guilherme Gaensly#0 Reproduction Antônio Bellia#1Museu da Imagem e do Som

Transporting the production in ox carts (1900) by Guilherme Gaensly#0 Reproduction Antônio Bellia#1Museu da Imagem e do Som

Coffee warehouse (1900) by Guilherme Gaensly#0 Reproduction Antônio Bellia#1Museu da Imagem e do Som

Credits: Story

GOVERNO DO ESTADO DE SÃO PAULO

Governor of the State of São Paulo
João Doria

Vice Governor of the State of São Paulo
Rodrigo Garcia

Head of São Paulo State Secretary of Culture and Creative Economy
Sérgio Sá Leitão

Executive Secretary of Culture and Creative Economy
Cláudia Pedrozo

Head of the Cabinet of Culture and Creative Economy
Frederico Mascarenhas


PAÇO DAS ARTES ORGANIZAÇÃO SOCIAL DE CULTURA

Administration Board
Chairman
James Murray Sinclair

Vice Chairman
Marcello Hallake

Board Members
Mauro Andre Mendes Finatti, Renata Letícia, Roberto Giannetti da Fonseca, Rosa Amélia de Oliveira Penna Marques Moreira

Advisory Board
Board Members
Cecília Ribeiro, Max Perlingeiro, Nilton Guedes


MUSEU DA IMAGEM E DO SOM

General Director
Marcos Mendonça

Management and Finance Director
Marcos Campagnone

Cultural Director
Cleber Papa


THE GUILHERME GAENSLY COLLECTION AT MIS: A HUMAN LANDSCAPE

Curation and Research
Renata Tsuchiya

Image Processing
Guilherme Savioli

Museological Oversight
Cecilia Salamon

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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