Tito Caula’s photographic imaginary and mid-century Caraqueño modernity

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Abstract

The photography of the Argentinian photographer Francisco ‘Tito’ Caula tracked some of the key social and physical changes that Caracas underwent during the middle decades of the twentieth century. This period saw the country transition from dictatorship to democracy. Caula’s advertising photographs together with his images of spectacular spaces and buildings such as the Sabana Grande and the Centro Simón Bolívar presented Caracas as a mecca of mid-century ‘petro-modernity’ (LeMenager 2014). In contrast to late nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century modernity, which was predominantly European in influence, Caraqueño modernity at mid-century was more cosmopolitan, taking particular inspiration from the United States. Caula’s photographs speak to the process of Americanization, defined as the adoption of North American cultural products, urban forms and patterns of living that Venezuela underwent during the years Caula spent in the country. Venezuela witnessed an economic boom in the 1960s and 70s, which was fuelled by the US acquisition of Venezuelan oil. In Venezuela, the boom facilitated the growth of a consumer society as well as the development of such quintessentially North American urban forms as freeways, shopping malls, drive-in movie theatres, suburbs and skyscrapers. It was also accompanied by the adoption of violent security tactics by the state’s security apparatus and the political marginalization of the radical left. Given that Caula held left-wing views, it is perhaps surprising that his photographs (at least those that have been published) do not explore the tensions at the heart of the Pacto de Punto Fijo, instituted to ensure that the transition from dictatorship to democracy would hold following elections in 1958. The celebration of North American influence within Caula’s photographs puts them in dialogue with critical perspectives that have seen US cultural influence rather more negatively. Moreover, their celebration of prosperity and their presentation of Caracas as an exciting city means that, for some, they have taken on a nostalgic hue.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-79
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Urban Cultural Studies
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021

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