Alfredo Cunha: The photographer who defined the Carnation Revolution

This article was originally published in Portuguese

Fifty years after the Carnation Revolution, Cunha’s photographs continue to immortalise the military coup that changed the course of Portuguese contemporary history.


On 25 April 1974, Alfredo Cunha was working as a photographer for ‘O Século’, a daily newspaper published in Lisbon.

Little did he know, when he left for work that morning, he was about to embark on a three-day, career-defining assignment.

Over the next few days, Cunha, who was then 20 years-old, documented the Carnation Revolution; the nearly bloodless coup that ended more than forty years of authoritarian rule in Portugal and Europe’s longest-lasting dictatorship.

Today, Cunha’s pictures are considered one of the most important and complete testimonies of the revolution which takes its name from the flowers offered to soldiers and placed in the muzzles of their guns.

“I left work in the evening and when I got home my mum told me there was a revolution going on. I went back to the newspaper again, ‘O Século’, where I worked, and took photographs,” Cunha told Euronews.

An iconic portrait

One of the most famous photographs from Cunha’s series wasn’t published until 1994. 

It was printed by the newspaper ‘Público’ as part of an editorial entitled ‘O olhar do capitão’ and helped elevate Cunha’s career. 

“There are those who consider this portrait to be the portrait of 25 April. I think it’s a portrait of Salgueiro Maia, nothing more than that, but it takes us to a point where the man becomes a myth. That’s what people see in this portrait,” explained Cunha.

Another photo from his series captured a group of young people gathered behind a cordon of soldiers. It’s also one of Cunha’s favourites: “It’s a partial portrait since there are no women, but it shows us the state of mind on that day. 

“What we were like, how we dressed, how we had our hair, whether it was a multiracial society or not. And it was. I think this is a portrait in which everything is there if we bring these two faces together (the military man who smokes and the young black man at the back). It’s Portugal in the 1970s.”

The award-winning photojournalist is holding a series of exhibitions across Portugal called ’25 April 1974 Thursday’ to mark the 50th anniversary of the revolution. 

Cunha has also published a book under the same name in collaboration with the Portuguese street artist Vhils and texts by Fernando Rosas, Carlos Matos Gomes and Adelino Gomes.

series of works based on Cunha’s photos will also be exhibited at the Lisnave shipyards in Almada, some six kilometres from Lisbon, to provide fresh interpretations.

Video editor • Bruno Filipe Figueiredo Da Silva

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