The Museu da Fotografia Fortaleza

In Brazil, couple turn their collection into a private museum dedicated to photography

By Celso Filho

Not so far from the touristic Iracema Beach, in Fortaleza, northeast of Brazil, a building made by concrete and steel grabs the attention between houses and restaurants. Inside, a rare collection of photographs contemplates decades of art history, from the modernism of Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) to the experimentation of Cindy Sherman. The Museu da Fotografia Fortaleza, as it is called in Portuguese, was born last year as a private initiative from the collectors Paula and Silvio Frota.

Silvio Frota

The couple has been collecting art, mainly paintings, since the 1980’s. However, ten years ago, an exhibition in Houston, USA, came up as a watershed in their hobby. During that trip, they decided to buy the iconic photograph by Steve McCurry of an Afghan girl. The picture, which became famous after being the cover of the National Geographic magazine in 1985, was the beginning of a journey that led to one of the biggest private collections for photography in Brazil.

 As the collection was quickly growing and incorporating important names of the art, the next step for them seemed to find a way to show this publicly. “With time, we felt that it was too selfish of us not to share those artworks with people. That’s when we started planning to create a space dedicated to photography, but the whole idea got into a point that it turned out bigger, in a form of a museum”, explains Silvio Frota.

With a collection of over 2.400 photographs to be accommodated, the architects Marcus and Lucas Novais turned an area of around 2 km² into a 5-floors building. Three floors were dedicated to the exhibitions. For the permanent ones, the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo’s former director, Ivo Mesquita, was in charge to explore the different highlights from their collection.

The result was exhibitions focusing on the diversity of topics covered by the artworks. For example, a section concerning the portraits shows photos from the Hungarian Nickolas Muray (1892-1965), who had a relationship with Frida Kahlo, to the American Milton Greene (1922-1985), well-known by the photoshoots with Marilyn Monroe, or the Brazilian Mário Cravo Neto (1947-2009), famous by his interest on the syncretism in Brazil.

Cristian Cravo

In the museum, there is also an opportunity to understand some peculiarities of their collection. For instance, while the couple started acquiring more and more artworks, they became fascinated about buying whole series or a large number of works from the same artist. “First, with the whole series, you easily have an exhibition whenever you want. Second, with more photos, you have a history and the photographer’s vision the way it is”, explains Silvio.

This can be found in the rare group of artworks of the Brazilian Chico Albuquerque (1917-2000), including one of his first jobs, working with Orson Welles in the production of the movie ‘It’s All Truth’ (never released) in the 1940’s. Another example can be the coverage of the civil war in Syria by the Brazilian photojournalist Gabriel Chaim.


Abertura da exposição luz e sombra, do Fotógrafo Christian Cravo

During this first year, the museum also became hosting temporary exhibitions with other collections. Last weekend, celebrating its first anniversary, the place started displaying a series of the Brazilian Christian Cravo about Africa. The agenda also includes workshops and talks.


The museum opens from Wednesday to Sunday, between 12am to 5pm. The tickets are R$ 10 (around € 2,50). The entrance is also free on Wednesdays.


Museu da Fotografia Fortaleza

Rua Frederico Borges, 545, Fortaleza, Brazil

+55 85 3017-3661

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