In 1581 a Spaniard came to Lisbon and fell madly in love with a Portuguese woman. There is nothing unusual about this incident; it happens all the time. What is uncommon, is that this Spaniard was also a great writer: his name is Miguel Cervantes. Here’s how Cervantes describes Lisbon in his novel, The Trials of Persiles and Sigismunda:
“Here love and honesty go hand in hand, courtesy never lets arrogance swagger, and bravery keeps frailty away. Its residents are pleasant, polite and discrete in matters of love. This is Europe’s largest city, the gateway to the treasures of the Orient, which from here flow to the world. Its busy harbor accommodates countless vessels and an undulating forest of ship masts. The beauty of the women enchants and arouses, the bravery of the men astonishes. In sum, this is the land that offers the most copious and holy tribute to heaven.’’
We do not have a portrait of the Portuguese woman who enchanted Cervantes, but the photos above show the splendor of the city that so impressed him (if you click on the images, you’ll see them on a larger scale). Luis Pavão, a wonderful Portuguese photographer, created these panoramic views without any digital gimmickry. He took these photos with a camera that he built using a design proposed by the Lumiére brothers in 1901 .
This is Europe at its best: a place where a Portuguese photographer uses the forgotten plans of two French dreamers to illuminate the words of a Spanish writer who fell in love with Lisbon at first sight.
Click here to see more work by Luis Pavão on his website. You can see a photo of his panoramic camera on the top left side of his homepage.