At a time when some festivals are choosing to reduce their programming, PHotoESPAÑA thinks big and celebrates its 25 years of existence through 120 exhibitions where women, Spanish photography and documentaries are in the spotlight. Here is an overview.
Claude Bussac, conductor of the festival since 2006, wanted to open this anniversary edition with a page of history, highlighting the big names in photography. At his invitation, the curators Vicent Todolí and Sandra Guimarães retraced the history of documentary photography since the 1930s, based on treasures from the collection of the Fundació Per Amor a l’Art. A didactic panorama to discover through the exhibitions of the cycle Sculpting Realities.
History is also written in a feminine way and PHotoESPAÑA pays tribute to the documentary work of photographers Kati Horna and Margaret Michaelis, unique witnesses of the Spanish Civil War, as well as to Germaine Krull who delivered a rare chronicle of the often ruthless journey that constituted the exile of France from Vichy to America.
Tribute also to the Italian Paolo Gasparini who for more than sixty years took the pulse of Latin America. The brilliant retrospective dedicated to him at the MAPFRE Foundation under the enlightening curatorship of María Willis retraces his work geographically rather than chronologically.
Public Photography: The Sixties, the very fine exhibition designed by the historian Horacio Fernández proposes to highlight a major vector for the dissemination of photography: publishing. Focusing on the turbulent period of the 1960s, it shows how, much more than the walls of an exhibition, books and magazines—but also vinyl covers—were essential mediums of expression for photography, whether documentary or artistic.
Located in the imposing Palace of Cibeles, The Sixties next to the exhibition Hybrids: Forging New Realities as Counter-Narrativewhere pride of place is given to new paths of contemporary creation that go beyond the traditional limits of the medium, adopting a more visual and multidisciplinary approach.
At the Casa Árabe, the exhibition In Light or Shadow of What Was and Still Is, devoted to contemporary Lebanese photography, presents the work of twelve photographers evoking the recent history of Lebanon through their personal and collective experience. An experience marked by many traumas, including the explosion of the port of Beirut whose consequences Myriam Boulos poetically evokes through her series Tell the trees to smile, but also by a cruel lack of freedom, particularly felt by the queer youth of Lebanon whom Omar Gabriel chose to photograph in the security of intimacy. Betty Ketchedjian’s more conceptual approach, which immortalizes piles of plates ready to fall from a table, expresses the feeling of powerlessness in the face of the uncertainties of fate.
Finally, PHotoESPAÑA celebrates Spanish photography through several monographic exhibitions, devoted in particular to Francesc Català-Roca, Javier Campano, Juan Baraja, Aleix Plademunt, Ana Palacios, Estela de Castro, Ana Nance and Marta Sou. An axis of the program which has some nice surprises in store for us, such as the dreamlike double exhibitions by Alberto García-Alix based on works from the Prado and, above all, the splendid retrospective dedicated to the work of Carlos Pérez Siquier, whose work impresses by its great diversity. Whether it be the reports at La Chanca, the abstract details of painted walls, the photographs of beach attendants à la Martin Parr — ten years before Martin Parr — or even the more poetic images of his series La BrisenaPérez Siquier moves brilliantly from one register to another, delivering an astonishingly rich portfolio.
Zoe Isle de Beauchaine