Paul Beer, 1936

Indio Motilone, Río de Oro, Colombia, 1936.

Indio Motilone, Río de Oro, Colombia, 1936.

We finally get a chance to post about Colombia…

We just acquired in Paris an unusual Paul Beer photograph. A hand-coloured gelatin silver print, it is signed, and dated “1936”.

We have been building for the last four years an important collection of Paul Beer’s ethnographic photographs, all of them dated from 1938 to 1939. The DiGiovanni-Beer expedition of 1937-1938 in the Colombian Amazonia and along the Orinoco river is well documented, and reproduced extensively in the few books about his work (notably in Paul Beer, la Silueta ediciones, Bogota, 2009). Beer made a second trip to the Amazon thought to be around 1940-1942, without DiGiovanni and with less resources; however, there are no dated documents to corroborate the exact dates of this exhibition. To our knowledge few images prior to 1938 are known…

Paul Beer arrived in Colombia in 1928. Little is known about is life and works until 1938.

The Rio de Oro, a tributary of the Catatumbo, runs in North-eastern Colombia, close to the Venezuelan border. The Motilone people, also know as Bari, inhabit the Catatumbo basin on both sides of the border. There is no mention of a trip to that area of Colombia by Paul Beer.

This photograph of the Motilone indian is very important when looking at Beer’s photographic work not only because of the date but because most of his ethnological work consisted on documenting the life of the Guahibo indians; taking portraits of them and photographing their customs, houses, and landscapes of the region (including the flora and rivers).

Paul Beer - Indio Guahibo, Tuparro (Vichada)

Indio Guahibo, Tuparro (Vichada), c. 1939.

Paul Beer - Indio Guahibo tomando moñoco - Vichada, c. 1939.

Indio Guahibo tomando moñoco – Vichada, c. 1939.

13 thoughts on “Paul Beer, 1936

  1. cristinarosenberg

    Gracias por tan inusuales fotos y comentarios! Saludos, Cristina Rosenberg

    El Martes, 16 de diciembre, 2014 8:36:02, Early Latin American Photography escribió:

    #yiv0728245946 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv0728245946 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv0728245946 a.yiv0728245946primaryactionlink:link, #yiv0728245946 a.yiv0728245946primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv0728245946 a.yiv0728245946primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv0728245946 a.yiv0728245946primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv0728245946 | earlylatinamericanphoto posted: “We finally get a chance to post about Colombia…We just acquired in Paris an unusual Paul Beer photograph. A hand-coloured gelatin silver print, it is signed, and dated “1936”.We have been building for the last four years an important collection of P” | |

  2. Felipe Cardenas-Arroyo

    This material is very interesting. I am working with an ethnographic collection at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (Harvard University) and found some of Beer’s work. Are there any living relatives of his in Germany or Colombia? Does anyone have more information and would like to share it? I would very much like to talk a bit more about this man.

    1. strabaneoptimists


      I have an old album from an old estate with 20 photos signed by Paul Beer 1938 in pencil. Trying to find more info on him as well. It also contains a map of the area the photos were taken.

    2. Pascual casanova

      Buenos dias, investigando sobre Beer, encontré esta página, tengo un álbum de Paul Beer,que contiene 40 fotografias en blanco y negro, autografiadas y fechadas en grafito
      Todas son de 1938 y están en excelente condición

    1. strabaneoptimists

      I most likely will and you’re more than welcome to make an offer. Currently I am trying to get more info on the photographer. I have attached some photos. I believe there are 20 photos, a map and a information page. I will have to double check.  Kind regards  John 

      Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

      1. Felipe Cárdenas

        Hi John: I can’t see the attachment. Paul Beer was a German photographer who travelled to Colombia in the late 1930’s. His main topic was actually Industrial Photography, but he met an American adventurer (Felix DiGiovanni) who took him along as photographer and movie cameraman to a trip to the Colombian “Llanos” (the plains towards the Orinoco River basin) where the Guahibo Indians live. Beer’s photos are, indeed, great. He died in 1979 in Colombia leaving a son, today a lawyer. I has wishing to publish some of his father’s photos with a book I wrote about the Colombian Amazon for Harvard, but unfortunately Mr. Beer declined his permission to reproduce any of his father’s images.
        The Harvard album is beautiful with 50 photos. I learned that both Beer and Di Giovanni sold these albums in order to help defray the costs of their expedition, and that’s why now almost 80 years later, you start finding them in collections and estates. I honestly have no idea of what the cost of an album like yours can be. I live in Boston although at present I am in Italy (will be back in June). If you have a phone number I can give you a call and we can talk about this.
        Thanks for getting in touch.

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