Instead of writing an article about Master George Huebner, I prefer to publish excerpts from letters written by him. Them certainly illustrate much better the enlightened personality of the man.
“The state of Amazonas is deteriorating. The economy is completely at a standstill because of the drop in the price of rubber. Imagine that at a certain time rubber cost 18,000 réis a kilo and now it only costs 1,600 réis!!! Today, Manaus is deserted, even though it is the time for the Brazil nut harvest, whose trade attenuates a little the damage to rubber. But by May, the chestnut season will be long gone, and God only knows what will happen next. Many businesses have already closed, and many more are expected to do the same in a short time. In the interior, on the banks of the rivers, misery generated anarchy. The steamers and boats that arrive there are attacked by the hungry population. If the federal government does not quickly find the means to face such a calamity, we do not know what will become of the State of Amazonas. So far, the government has not taken any action, and all appeals from our province to Rio de Janeiro have received no response. However, something needs to be done, and as the current regional government does not trusts Rio and is incapable of facing the situation, all hope is focused on intervention, the only means of salvation!”—George Huebner, in a letter sent to Dr. Theodor Koch-Grünberg, on April 15, 1921.
After the fall of the rubber trade, Manaus no longer offered the luxury of the “belle epoque”. Many left the city, but this was not the case for the photographer, who started in the field of botany. Daniel Schoepf speaks of George Huebner as an ‘excluded from memory’, a victim of both the vicissitudes and the contempt of photographic credit.Robério Braga – Secretary of Culture of Amazonas
About Expedition Roosevelt-Rondon
Dearest friend, today I send you again two newspaper clippings. One of the articles is interesting: engineer Moerbeck tries to convince readers that the River of Doubt, which Roosevelt’s expedition reconnoitred and which from now on will be called the Roosevelt River, was not completely unknown. In fact, we should not give Moerbeck more credit than he deserves, for he is a good speaker. But there may be something true in what he says! You’re right, Roosevelt’s trip was a true American-style play, and if he hadn’t had the competent and respected Colonel Cândido Rondón as an escort, he certainly wouldn’t have returned to Manaus alive. Rondón is a man full of life, very friendly and a role model to be admired by Brazilians. He gave a great proof of his honesty by refusing all gifts. Imagine: the Commercial Association of the State of Amazonas wanting to offer him a diamond necklace for his wife, which he refused with the usual thanks, arguing that his wife was a caboclaThere is the caboclo of terra firme (highlands), more dedicated to hunting and agriculture, he knows and moves with agility in the dense forest of the highlands. There is the riverine that inhabits the riverbanks, more dedicated to fishing and short-term crops following the flow of the waters. Brown skin, the result of centuries of miscegenation between native Indians and many other peoples – mainly Brazilians from the Northeast, Portuguese, Bolivians, Peruvians, Colombians, Syrians, Lebanese and Jews – pioneers from the time before the rubber boom, or who took part in the boom. Over time, caboclos absorbed the ancient wisdom derived from many indigenous ethnicities. and did not wear these things.George Huebner, in a letter sent to Dr. Theodor Koch-Grünberg, on May 22, 1914.
Backstage photography. Scaffolding over the Pachiteia River, built with the aim of improving the framing of the photo. In the image, Kroehle and Huebner, and, further down, the riverside man, the probable builder of the scaffolding.
Photograph by George Huebner (taken from the book: George Huebner 1862-1935: a photographer in Manaus, by Daniel Schoepf, Metalivros publishing house).
The cover of the book, “George Huebner, a photographer in Manaus”, shows how the photographer took special care in his framing. The simple artifice of the scaffolding shows an unusual dedication to the image he is trying to produce: he has already built the frame in his imagination and then set off on his production, which certainly took at least half a day to put into practice. His support team went into the forest, cut the poles, took them to the riverbank and set up the structure. The scaffolding has to be very well made to support the two men and reduce movements to a minimum, as the cameras of that time used not as fast times as today.
The first time I saw this image I felt that creative impulse that the artist experiences when he has a vision of his work and looks for the material means to realize it. I recalled at once the countless situations to gain a higher point of view or an angle that I thought was perfect, but difficult to reach. The professional photographer deals with it all the time, but what amazes me most about Huebner is that the use of this technique is normal in a more advanced stage of photography. Old photos, in general, are similar in their framing and very similar to the images of an amateur. Nowadays, with the maturity of the photographic art, even the amateur reaches the advanced level and can make photographs that are admired as much as those of a professional.
This means an indispensable quality in the successful practice of any artistic production: dedication. Certainly Hubner was a photographer with current professional characteristics.
“The news that arrived that the Indians had attacked the rubber collectors, killing three men and seriously injuring two others, took us by surprise. In reaction, the governor deployed two officers and fifty soldiers to the site. What are you going to do there? It’s really absurd! (…) For now, the Indians are still the lords of the river, but how much time do they have left before they are displaced by the rubber collectors? The Antunes Company acquired the concession for that river with a view to the exploitation of rubber (…) The punitive expedition returned to Manaus after a month with 19 Yauapery (currently known as Waimiri-Atroari) prisoners, among them a woman. (…) I was able to take good photographs, albeit with great difficulty. Predictably, some soon became ill from the food they were not used to; In fact, two of them have already died. (…) In fact, I cannot understand for what purpose these people used to life in the forest are kept here.”(George Huebner, in a letter sent to Dr. Theodor Koch-Grünberg, February 2, 1906)
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