Panorama of Machu Picchu

Artist: Martín Chambi (Peruvian, 1891–1973)

Date: ca. 1930s

Geography: Peru

Medium: Gelatin silver prints

Dimensions: Image: 6 1/2 x 9 in. (16.5 x 22.9 cm)
Overall: 6 1/2 x 18 in. (16.5 x 45.7 cm)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: Purchase, Arthur M. Bullowa Bequest, 2003

Accession Number: 2003.31


Machu Picchu has fascinated imaginations since archaeologist Hiram Bingham first visited it in 1922. Few locations are as remote, intriguing, and visually compelling as this former center of the Inca empire, now thought to have been a country palace during the late fifteenth to early sixteenth century. Photographs rarely capture its sweeping grandeur and architectural complexity, and equally uncommon are images of it made by Quechua artists. Thus we marvel at this stunning image by Peruvian photographer Martín Chambi.

Born in Coaza village in the high country near Lake Titicaca, Chambi first encountered photography at the mining company where his father worked. Inspired by the medium, Chambi traveled to the thriving artistic community of Arequipa to study with the photographer Max T. Vargas. Chambi later opened his own portrait studio in Cuzco, where he was based for his entire career. His desire to make photography accessible to all prompted him to sell hundreds of photographic postcards, and he is credited with popularizing the format in Peru.

Chambi is said to have been passionate about photographing Machu Picchu and did so many times beginning in 1917. His vision and his heritage are evident in this exquisitely detailed panorama.