The sensual photographs of Sergio Purtell capture long summer days and endless evenings spent travelling across Europe.

By Balthazar Malevolent


Sergio Purtell purchased a flight from New York to London each summer in the late 70s and early 80s, and then traveled across Europe on a cheap rail pass. He went to France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, making friends and staying in seedy hotels along the way. "Wandering made me feel smart," the photographer writes on the book's back cover. "At the age of 18, I left Chile for the US and fled an unfolding dictatorship. I studied architecture but then I fell in love with photography and my courses in art history convinced me that I needed to see Europe. Once I got there, I was immediately reminded of my life in Santiago: the mannerisms, the traditions, the architecture, the relaxed attitude towards life, the mornings in cafes drinking a cup for as long as one liked, the afternoons passed by the cool of a fountain, ending at a local bar with a glass of wine."

Purtell captured strangers and casual encounters with a paradoxical intimacy: even though he had just arrived, their lives felt familiar to him. 40 Years on, Purtell's first book puts together a collection of photos from those roaming summers. Titled Love's Labour, the book captures the summer movements, the long-held poses, the endless hours. It's a window into seasonal pleasures, at a time when few of us have access to them.

Purtell's pictures of statues reflect this tension in a romantic way. Young men and women are captured in poses reminiscent of statues standing in parks with fountains beside them – or is it the pose of the statue that resembles the youth in denim shorts? Purtell brings the granular focus to sensual movements and enigmatic relations that can be traced back to his MFA days at Yale, where he was taught by Tod Papageorge, who inspired a generation of artists like Mark Steinmetz, An-My Lê and Philip-Lorca diCorcia. As Barker said, "Tod is known for his work's elegance and you can see that elegance in all the photographers with whom he worked." Love's Labour oozes such leisurely ease, even pictures of people relaxing in the center of Paris look like they've been taken on the French Riviera.

In other news, under the Maison/Objects line Rick Owens has created a flurry of diverse homewares. The designer is known for his sleek, brutalism-inspired furniture; with similar design aesthetics, he is now adding wares to his namesake.

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