The city of the future was inaugurated in 1960.
Built in four years, starting in 1956, Brasilia, Brazil’s capital, remains an astonishing sight, says New York City-based photographer Andrew Prokos, who in 2012 traveled to the Brasilia and photographed the most famous and lesser known sights of the city designed by famed architect Oscar Niemeyer.
"I was in Rio de Janeiro shooting another project, and a good friend of mine, who is originally from Brasilia, suggested that I might like to shoot his home town,” says Prokos. “The city is famous for its modernist architecture and also for its somewhat Utopian city planning. We flew to Brasilia and I found the city more fascinating than I had expected.”
What intrigued Prokos most about Brasilia was the degree of control that Niemeyer had over it’s design. “It really is unprecedented for any modern architect — he shaped the city for over 50 years and was working well into his 90s,” Prokos says. “When looking at Brasilia you have to take into account not only the visuals, but the story behind the city and the politics that made an entire capital city appear in the middle of the Brazilian countryside in just a few years.”
A commercial and fine-art photographer who shoots for clients in advertising, industry, government, real estate, and interior design, Prokos already had considerable experience photographing architecture when he took on Brasilia as a subject. Shooting with a Nikon DX3, he captured the city in a variety of lighting situations, often at night, with long exposures. “No post-production affects were applied, nor were any filters,” he notes.
His work was named a winner of both the 2013 International Photography Awards and the 2014 Latin American Fotografia 3 competition.
“Brasilia is fairly relaxed and easy to shoot, especially coming from New York,” Prokos says “Nobody stops you and questions you, nor do they give you a hard time about setting up your camera. I was shooting at a location near the Brazilian defense department, and a soldier with a rifle was on the platform guarding the site. I climbed up onto the platform with my tripod and camera and said hello and started to set up and he looked rather surprised, but didn't say a word. He left me there to shoot the site with no demand for permits and no questions asked. It really shows the more relaxed attitude in Brazil. That would never happen in the US.”
Prokos, who studied political science in college, calls himself “the classic self-taught photographer.” After moving to New York in the early 1990's to start graduate school, he picked up his first camera and, he notes, “it became an instant obsession.”
“I set up a darkroom in my apartment on the Upper West Side and would spend all night developing film and printing,” Prokos says. “From 1994 to 1996 I was living in Europe and was really able to indulge myself in traveling and shooting a lot. After years of shooting as an amateur I decided to go pro in 2003.”
Prokos is currently working on an ongoing series called "Night & Day,” capturing the transition from day to night in various locations. “The large-format photos are composed of numerous exposures taken during the day, at dusk and at night and merged together to form a seamless transition,” he says. “The final prints are very detailed and can be printed up to about 120 inches wide. It's an enormous amount of work between shooting and post, and much more involved than anything I have done before.”