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On 18 January 1896 a man was born in Salzburg whose life would turn into a great adventure - Mario Baldi. He was the son of Alois and Louiza Baldi. As he tells us, in his autobiography, the Baldi family was a harmonious one where he grew up loved by his parents and by his little brother, Herbert. During infancy and adolescence, he practiced sports like tennis and skiing and, like many children of that time, he frequented the Übungsschule, the Gymnasium and a seminary in the south of Austria.
In 1914, while Mario was still studying, a period of huge change started for him. In that year the Great War began and he decided to fight in the Austro-Hungarian army. Being rejected in a first examination, Mario managed to enter in the military lines by asking the Grand-Duchess of Toscana for help. She was an old friend of the Baldi family and aunt of Franz Joseph I of Austria and with her intervention Mario achieved his aim. After some difficulty, he was incorporated by the 10,4cm F.K.12/12R as an observer-soldier. In this function he started his photographic activities systematically, for he was expected to produce documentary images of battle fields, including air-photographs. Notwithstanding this, in his Kriegs Tage-Buch, we find many souvenirs photographs showing the day-to-day life of the troops.
After the end of the war, Mario Baldi intended to immigrate to Namibia, but he ended up moving to Brazil with his brother and some friends, arriving at Rio de Janeiro in March 1921. The period following the end of the Great War was the most significant in terms of German and Austrian immigration to Brazil. At first Mario worked as a farmer and gardener, while continuing with his photography, traversing the lands of the new country, portraying the clients he found along the way as an itinerant photographer.
His first home was a farm in Teresópolis, where he worked until 1924-25, then moving to Petrópolis, a neighboring city. In this new city, he was hired to work in the house of the Royal Family. A deep friendship began between Mario and D. Pedro de Orleans e Bragança, grandson of D. Pedro II, the last emperor of Brazil. The noble and all his family were forbidden to step foot on Brazilian soil since the proclamation of the Republic (1889). The exile ended in 1920, so the Royal Family could return to see the lands which had been under their rule. D. Pedro had been a young boy when he had left Brazil which partly explains why he wanted to travel through the country.
D. Pedro asked the Grand-Duchess of Toscana for information on Baldi. The feedback was so favorable that Mario was promoted from butler to personal secretary of the prince, guiding and documenting photographically the royal trips throughout the Brazilian hinterland. Local newspapers proudly published reports of the visit of such an important retinue: besides Mario Baldi, D. Pedro had in his company the Count of Bailen, a Spanish noble, and Dr. Leonardo Pereira.
Mario Baldi returned to Europe in 1927, following D. Pedro to Paris and then, on vacation, to Salzburg. There he gave a lot of lectures illustrated by photographic projection slides, bringing to the Salzburg public glimpses and impressions of Brazil. The visual material he produced was also brought to public attention by many illustrated articles published in German, Austrian and Brazilian illustrated magazines. This was the beginning of Mario Baldi's move into the illustrated press, which was living its golden-age, especially in the German regions of Europe.
Returning to Brazil in 1934 he moved to Mato Grosso, a State in Brazil's hinterland. There he was expected to produce a film for the Salesianos and it was made in the following year. He moved back to Rio de Janeiro in 1935 with his wife, Emmy Baldi, whom he had married in Europe.
From that period on, Mario dedicated his life to expeditions and to press publishing. He worked as freelancer until 1938, when the newspaper A Noite hired him as photojournalist. A Noite designated Marioto spend two months covering Getúlio Vargas, president of Brazil in that time. His fame led him to be sent by the Government to photograph the north of the country, as part of a huge project to document the progress Brazil had experienced under President Vargas.
Until 1957 Mario Baldi traveled through out Brazil, particularly meeting Indian tribes, as one of his major interests was ethnography. He died during one of his expeditions and was buried by the Tapirapé Indians .
© Marcos Felipe de Brum Lopes (Historian - Brazil)