Pierre Verger

Pierre Edouard Leopold Verger (1902-1996) was a French photographer, ethnologist, anthropologist and researcher who lived most of his life in the city of Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia, in Brazil. Verger developed a photographic work of great importance, based on everyday life and the popular culture of five continents. Verger also wrote several reference texts on the Afro-Bahian culture and the Diaspora, focusing his research work on the study of the religious aspects of Candomblé, an issue that becomes his main interest point.

Verger is born in Paris on November 4 th 1902. From a middle-class upbringing, until his thirties Pierre Verger leads a rather conventional lifestyle, corresponding to his social condition, even if he intimately disagrees with those class values. The year 1932 marks a turning point: he learns photography from his friend Pierre Boucher and discovers his passion for travel. Verger buys his first Rolleiflex camera, and after the death of his mother decides to realise his deepest desire: to become a lonesome traveller. Since the death of his father and two brothers, Verger’s mother had been his sole remaining parent, who he did not want to hurt in choosing an anticonformism and roving lifestyle.

Between December 1932 and August 1946, Pierre Verger travels around the world, making a living exclusively from his photographic art. Negot iating his negatives with newspapers, photo agencies and research institutions, Verger takes pictures for various companies and even exchanges his services for travel tickets. Paris becomes his base, where he receives his friends – including Jacques Prévert’s party and the ethnologists from the Ethnographic Museum in Trocadero square – while making contacts for new trips. He has his work published in the best magazines of the time, but as stardom is not his aim, Verger is always on the brink of a new departure: “The sensation that there was a wide world out there didn’t leave me, and the longing to see it took me towards new horizons”.

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