On that day in April 1974, students from Guimarães rushed to the Largo Cónego José Maria Gomes, which stretches between the town hall building and the Raul Brandão library. With their fists raised and posters they manifested the conquest of freedom and the fall of the Estado Novo. That moment was remembered whoever was there, but it was also immortalized in a photo. Behind the camera was Simão Freitas, who was “the unofficial photographer of Guimarães” in the second half of the last century.
“He always went for walks with the camera and recorded everything from beggars to important people in the city, in all areas of the city. He photographed everything: the works, the development of the center, the Nicolinas, ”remembers another Simão Freitas, his son, who is also a photographer and photojournalist and is often a father’s companion in these recordings. In the old photo Simão, which closed in 2005, they worked together for 20 years. The father died three years later. When the store closed, one of the employees who was “with part of the store” brought what interested him most: “Cameras and negatives that I have kept to this day.” These more than 6,000 negatives tell a large part of the history of the Guimarães community between the late 1950s and 1990s. The employee, now a photographer and owner of his own business, is José Carlos Moreira.
Now the thousands of pictures leave the photographer’s house for the Guimarães Town Hall and are treated by the Alfredo Pimenta City Archives. “I’ve been with it for 15 years and thought it was time [de cedê-los]. I never exhibited them, they were sealed in envelopes and I was not interested in selling them, ”explains José Carlos Moreira. A decade and a half later, this property was acquired by the municipality for 8 thousand euros. The photo described at the beginning of this article is one of the four photos published when the acquisition was announced.
This photographic property has never been lost – and the community has “dated it for many years”, contextualized the cultural councilor and vice president of the community, Adelina Paula Pinto. It’s not that there was (mostly) “a failure” in the photographic archive of life in Guimarães between the 1960s and 1990s, but the existing record “was all very institutional,” he adds. “Many people already knew about the existence” of this property; For this reason, the takeover of the negatives by Simão Freitas, also a photojournalist in sports newspapers like A Bola, leaves the people of Guimarães “full of expectation”. Also known are the photos of “the first administrative commission appointed by the government after April 25” with “a former president, Mariano Felgueiras”. There are also two aerial views: one of the old stadium and one of the historic center of the city.
I work for a year (after 15 years)
Paulo Pacheco, a technician in the commune’s communications department, says he has approached José Carlos Moreira for 15 years to convince him to sell the property to the chamber. Why did it take so long? “We have no explanation. He never wanted to break up, but he also didn’t want to make money. “For his part, the photographer said that after all these years he decided to give up the negatives” before they get lost and spoiled “. “Digitizing and doing everything was very time consuming and the city council has more options,” he adds. With Simão Freitas he was born for photography: “I learned from him, but I was part of the business and served people and so on. I went to work there in the mid 80s. He was a city dweller who liked to have memories of everything that was done, and that’s why he put it all together until he died. ”
When the photographer agreed to sell the property, Paulo Pacheco saw “a golden opportunity” for the chamber, which had already saved “the first half of the century” since “the height of the European Capital of Culture in 2012”. “After that, from the 1960s on, there is not much left” – and now there is a great contribution to the revitalization of visual memory. “This property shows the turn of the Estado Novo towards democracy, the experience in the city, the changes in spatial planning, such as the first intervention in Largo da Oliveira in the 1980s,” he explains.
From the set, “most of them are 35mm negatives in a variety of sizes. There are half a dozen glass negatives that we haven’t seen yet, ”says Paulo Pacheco. The frames must now be dealt with: “We are missing the technical precision that we have in our articles. It will take us a few months to complete this process as there are more than 6 thousand. It can even reach 7,000 negatives as José Carlos Moreira appeared after the takeover with an envelope of 25 de Abril negatives. “
Demonstration by students on April 25, 74
Alexandra Marques, director of the Alfredo Pimenta City Archives, explains why there are so few photos from this period: “In these decades, photographing these changes was a task for photo houses that were few and less for people. That is why there is not much photo collection in the city during these decades. “As of the 1970s, he says,“ there was nothing on the record ”. Now it is “extremely important” to have all of this material for collective memory and identity. Because at present “we are looking at the 20th century with different eyes, the leap that Guimarães has made in these decades,” emphasizes Adelina Paula Pinto.
Although the property is well known, the community “did not anticipate” the interest of so many in Guimarães to learn about the past of the county. “We will have no choice but to do an exhibition. Once the negatives are dealt with, we will select a few to continue displaying. In 2022 we will have an exhibition, but not with the entire property, ”he says. Until then there is a job that “can last a few months or even a year,” says Alexandra Marques. And there is a “planning in terms of times and tasks” that has to be fulfilled: “There are a lot of films. Technical work is required: disinfect negatives, cut out, write on, scan and only then make them available. We will do it asap, given the interest. “