IF A PICTURE paints a thousand words, certainly a hundred is more than enough to portray 150 years of culture?

150 Years of Photography in Spain, a traveling exhibit curated by Publio Lopez Mondejar, features 113 images of people, landscapes, and different man-made wonders that exhibited the Spanish culture of the mid-19th century up to the late 1970s and was the attraction at the National Museum last Sept. 27 to Nov. 6.

According to Mondejar, an author of photography books including Photography in Franco’s Spain, many of the old photo-graphs were found aging in different museums, deposi-tories and private collections. He thought of sharing them with the world instead of leaving them to deteriorate.

The National Museum exhibit is part of the “FIESTA! Spanish Festival for Culture and the Arts” organized by Instituto Cervantes. It has been moving around the world since September 2001 and has already reached over 25 countries in four continents.

Emphasizing the evolution of Spanish photography, 150 Years spans from simple studio portraits using daguerreotypes, to creative postmodern photography in different styles. The pictures are not merely an art form, but more importantly, a viewing glass to the social changes of Spanish culture through almost three centuries.

Early daguer-reotypes featured images highlighting the day-to-day life of Spaniards and their customs— from thick crowds making their way through a busy street, to personal portraits like an 1873 photo of a girl lying against her resting dog.

The exhibit also featured pictures of man-made innovations such as an image of a commercial liner departing from the ship graveyard, and people in action during the early 20th century like an 1920 picture showing three shop assistants inside the Lux Photo Shop in Giron, Spain. This period also redefined the use of photography for documenting historic events, as it captured the Civil War that erupted in Spain during the 1930s.

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A sense of evolving liberation was evident in the pictures taken during the last years of Francisco Franco, the authoritarian head of state of Spain from 1936 to 1975. This new-found liberalism in photography is also found in the other images, including “A Picture of Elsa,” which shows a beautiful woman wearing only an open coat, revealing her bare chest. Another photograph taken by Tony Catany in 1984 showed a nude male extending his limbs to emphasize his chest.

The different ensembles of photography of the early 1980s also had creative shots, breaking away from traditional photography following the invention of more portable cameras and other equipment. A Catala Roca image depicting six women walking down the street in Madrid side by side highlighted the changes in photography as well as the gradual change in Spanish culture.

With 150 years of Spanish culture already crossing different boundaries in more than four years, indeed, Mondejar has reached a part of his goal. People are allowed to see the evolution of culture through the pictures that froze history for times to come.


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