My quest to find the broth­ers’ stu­dios in Maputo and Lis­bon

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE -

cu­ra­tor and his­to­rian at Museu da Presidên­cia da República, Lis­bon’s Pres­i­den­tial Mu­seum. Not only was their stu­dio well placed, he told us, un­usu­ally, it had a tele­phone — fur­ther ev­i­dence of their po­si­tion and sta­tus.

Sit­ting in a grand, oak-pan­elled room within the mu­seum com­plex, with paint­ings of Por­tu­gal’s past pres­i­dents look­ing down on us, Bruno pro­duced the gelatin sil­ver prints on glass, of Pres­i­dents Car­mona and Pais that the broth­ers had taken. The im­ages had been in­cluded in a 2010 ex­hi­bi­tion at the mu­seum that he had helped cu­rate. Later pho­tos of us were taken for the mu­seum’s Face­book page. As a re­sult, sev­eral months later, I heard from Paulo Azevedo, a re­searcher who sent me his self-pub­lished book about the Lazarus broth­ers.

My on­go­ing re­search and grow­ing in­quis­i­tive­ness led to a fam­ily hol­i­day, in De­cem­ber, to Mozam­bique — now a very dif­fer­ent place from the one my grand­fa­ther knew. Hav­ing gained in­de­pen­dence from Por­tu­gal in 1975, its sub­se­quent years have been tur­bu­lent, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing civil war, eco­nomic in­sta­bil­ity and cor­rup­tion.

Palm trees still nod and sway on Maputo’s main boule­vards but the mod­ern city lacks the al­lure and

The Lis­bon stu­dio had a phone, a sign of suc­cess

Ex­plor­ing Maputo, I felt they were with me

be­witch­ing ex­oti­cism of its past. In Café Con­ti­nen­tal, a pop­u­lar, cen­tral Maputo land­mark, I met Dr An­tónio Sopa, for­mer di­rec­tor of his­toric ar­chives in Maputo. Talk­ing above the noisy clat­ter via an in­ter­preter, Dr Sopa ex­plained why he felt the Lazarus broth­ers were such ac­com­plished pho­tog­ra­phers. “The sheer quality of their work,” he said, point­ing to their pic­tures in front of me, “and their use of per­spec­tive. They were the ones who [some­times] pho­tographed from above.” Their book, A Sou­venir of Lourenço

Mar­ques, was the first pho­to­graphic al­bum ever pro­duced about the city. It is now a rare, col­lec­tor’s item, a copy of which can be found in the Bri­tish Li­brary. They went on to pub­lish two more al­bums.

They pho­tographed the elite, he con­tin­ued, in­clud­ing Gov­er­nors, Com­mis­sion­ers and mem­bers of the Bri­tish Coun­cil. Their post­cards and al­bums were a means of con­vey­ing life in LM to the out­side world. He thought their sub­se­quent move to Lis­bon, in 1908, was likely to have been due to their suc­cess­ful cov­er­age of the visit of Crown Prince Luis Filipe of Por­tu­gal to Mozam­bique in 1907 — the first mem­ber of the royal fam­ily to visit the Por­tuguese colonies in Africa.

Dr Sopa then dis­closed yet an­other rev­e­la­tion: that he be­lieved that the broth­ers had also worked in Malawi.

As I ex­plored Maputo, to my sur­prise, the Lazarus broth­ers’ pres­ence was with me wher­ever I went — their record of the city had cre­ated a strange sense of fa­mil­iar­ity as I walked past the build­ings that they had pho­tographed. Im­ages ap­peared in un­likely places — in the rail­way sta­tion where pic­tures depicted its early days and in the black and white pho­tos of old build­ings lin­ing the walls of our ho­tel lobby.

It was driz­zly and hu­mid on my fi­nal day and I was not cer­tain that I would find the ac­tual ad­dress of the broth­ers’ stu­dio. Like much of the city, down­town Bag­amoya St, pre­vi­ously named Araújo St, is a cu­ri­ous mix of de­cay­ing colo­nialera pas­tel-painted el­e­gance and ugly mod­ern con­crete office blocks. It also hap­pens to be the city’s red light district.

Pac­ing up and down the street, armed with a photograph from Google Street View (marked with a hand drawn ar­row), a fan­tas­tic lo­cal guide and the ad­vice of a renowned, re­tired Maputo-based his­to­rian, I fi­nally lo­cated my grand­fa­ther’s stu­dio.

One hun­dred and eight years af­ter he left the city and just over two years af­ter my fa­ther’s death, I was stand­ing out­side a one storey cor­ru­gated roofed, semi- white­washed build­ing. This nar­row street’s name and num­ber­ing might have changed over the years but there was no mis­tak­ing it. It was here that they made their sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the early his­tory of pho­tog­ra­phy — a record of which ex­ists in pri­vate and pub­lic col­lec­tions all over the world.

De­spite dis­cov­er­ing so much, I feel frus­trated about the vast amount that I still don’t know, es­pe­cially about their per­sonal lives.

Even though the broth­ers were the cat­a­lyst that brought me to Mozam­bique, I had not ex­pected to leave with such an in­tense feel­ing of con­nec­tion, pride and vast cu­rios­ity to ex­plore their legacy fur­ther.

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