Photographer and visual artist, Cris Bierrenbach is one of the references in Brazil’s contemporary photography. Inventive and artisanal, her main subjects comprise the feminine body, gender issues, identity and the self-portrait.
Cris Bierrenbach graduated in Geology before taking the cinema course at the School of Art and Communications of the University of São Paulo (ECA-USP). She carried out her first solo show at the Museum of Image and Sound (Museu da Imagem e do Som – MIS), in 1990. She was employed by the Folha de São Paulo company, having worked in the newspaper between 1989 and 1992, and at Revista da Folha magazine between 1992 and 1996. In the same year, she was photography editor of the first few issues of the República magazine and illustrated the first Brazilian fotonovela (fotonovel or photostory), titled The Muscovite (O Moscovita), geared towards internet advertising for the UOL website. Her photographs are also featured in magazines such as Vogue, Carta Capital and Marie Claire.
Cris Bierrenbach’s work is an investigation on the wealth and quality of photographic processes, ranging from the older techniques to the more recent ones, such as the digital, thus also widening the concept of photography itself. In her researches on the photographic language, images are generated by the deployment of precursor techniques, such as the daguerreotype, a process created by Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, French painter and physic of the beginning of the nineteenth century. The use of this technique shows Bierrenbach’s interest in the reclaiming of the modus operandi associated with the history of photography, such as in the essays Alphabet (Alfabeto, 2003) and Encounter (Encontro, 2011). In the two series, Bierrenbach resorts to daguerreotypy, focussing on her body and its physical and philosophical developments, problematising its fragmentation and the dimension of affect. The shift between diverse techniques allows her to experiment several different languages, and her installations express the potentiality of photography. In 2004, she won the contemporary research award Prêmio Porto Seguro Pesquisas Contemporâneas, in São Paulo. Publishing house Cosac & Naif issued the Portable Photo (Foto portátil) collection in 2005, producing a volume with various series carried out by the artist. In the feature film FilmeFobia, by Kiko Goifman, she was the photography director, receiving the Best Art Direction award at the Brasília Festival of 2008. Aspects of her career and production feature in the book Brazilian Photographers – Substantive Image (Fotógrafas Brasileiras – Imagem Substantiva, 2021), authored by myself.
From the Intimate Portrait (Retrato Íntimo) series – “… I believe that the initial interest was more of a scientific sort. By chance I had access to an x-ray image that was made of my body and I saw a piece of metal inside me. I was absolutely shocked by this, it was actually my IUD, which was supposedly normal, but when I saw it I also thought: what a horror! That thing floating inside my body, and I questioned myself: “dear me, what’s that?… This is not normal and Medicine makes us believe that things are normal, but they are not normal”.
On the use of the daguerreotype technique – “First because it works as a kind of mirror; a mirror that can produce a positive or negative image depending on the light’s angle of incidence, a kind of showing and concealing the image; and of all techniques, the most difficult”. (PALHARES, 2009:157 and 190)
Yara Schreiber Dines
BIERRENBACH, Cris. In: ENCICLOPÉDIA Itaú Cultural de Arte e Cultura Brasileiras. São Paulo: Itaú Cultural, 2021. Available at: <http://enciclopedia.itaucultural.org.br/pessoa21857/cris-bierrenbach>. Accessed in: June 9 2021.
BIERRENBACH, Cris. Foto-Portátil. São Paulo: Cosac & Naify, 2005.
DINES, Yara Schreiber. Cris Bierrenbach. The Substance of Images. Brazilian Women Photographers. São Paulo: Editora Grifo, 2021.
FERNANDES, Maria Paula Palhares. Comunicação nos processos de criação: cadernos de artistas. São Paulo, 2009. Available at: <http://livros01.livrosgratis.com.br/cp091267.pdf>. Accessed in: novembro 2022.
Mulheres centrais. Available at: http://garapa.org/mulherescentrais/cris/index.html. Accessed in: novembro 2022.