Few people outside of Portugal knew the power being wielded on the Iberian Peninsula during the early 1930’s to late 1960’s. This era marks the reign of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. I lived and photographed the Portuguese people from late 1967 to 1968, when Salazar’s health took an unexpected turn for the worse, ending his dictatorship.
My time in Portugal came from a Fulbright Fellowship I received at the height of the Vietnam War. I was assigned to photograph archeological surveys around Portugal. Aside from the days I spent documenting archaeological digs, largely in Conimbriga, I walked the streets of Lisbon, Coimbra, and elsewhere, finding a subject in the Portuguese people.
Portugal was a vastly different country 50 years ago. I was living in the midst of the people’s plight under Salazar’s dictatorship. My photographs echo a sense of national unrest coming from all sides— the right, the left, the poor and the rich. The pictures frame a time in Portugal’s history where people are not at war, but rather, people in submission.
I was one of only four foreign photographers to have ever photographed in Portugal up to that time. I shot approximately 11,000 negatives in 1968, which yielded over 2,000 prints. I personally made all these prints between the years 1969 and 1971, when Lustrum Press published my first book. Approximately 250 prints were placed in the Portuguese Ministry of Culture in the late 1980’s in remembrance of the days of Antonio Salazar’s reign. A second book was published by the Fundaçao de Serralves during an exhibition of these prints that was shown there in November, 1990.
As next year marks the 50th anniversary of my time in Portugal, I will return to the place and people so formative to me. I will film a documentary exploring the country’s past and present. I will also be making new photographs for a new book, which will be included in the film. I hope to learn new truths from the Portuguese, while at the same time, understanding the visual memories I have of the past.