Every summer from the late 1970s through to the mid-'80s, photographer Sergio Purtell would buy a cheap roundtrip ticket from New York to London, and from there get an inexpensive Eurail pass to move freely around Europe.
In his series Love's Labour, now available in a new book by Stanley/Barker, we see a document of his adventures: the places he discovers, the people he meets – it's a gloriously romantic tribute to London, Paris, Rome, and everywhere else that he wandered to. "I studied the small gestures, the unruliness of leisure," Purtell says of that time. "Walking through the parks and plazas, sometimes meeting friends who brought me into their homes, I was allowed to record lives that seemed familiar to me even though I had just arrived."
Of course, wandering made sense to Purtell. At the age of 18, he fled an imminent dictatorship in Chile. He fell in love with photography, and his art history classes convinced him that he needed to see Europe. When he got there, he was reminded of his life in Santiago: the mannerisms, the customs, the architecture, the relaxed attitude towards life, the mornings in cafes, and afternoons lounging by the cool of a fountain and finishing the day at the local bar with a glass of wine.
Of the series, he says: "A young man sets out to find his love. As he traverses the European continent, he learns to forget the past, live in the present, and appreciate the journey. How does one fall in love? By being present, an act that is unavoidable when making pictures in the world.
"In photography, love is not blind – although many things can, deceptively, go unnoticed: a small gesture, the radiance of a glance, the texture of skin, the shape of a neck, a flitting blush, downcast eyes, a modest grace. Love can be a connection to something greater than ourselves or the thing that shows us who we are. It requires relentless dedication. The fountains merge with the river and rivers with the ocean and the waves embrace each other."
Take us back to those carefree days when we could wander freely. Love's Labour by Sergio Purtell is available via Stanley/Barker.