Valencia Exhibitions: Photography, March 2017

I happened to find myself again in my home town of Valencia, in Eastern Spain, a few weeks ago, in February. During my stay I was lucky to catch a number of temporary photography exhibitions, all very different from each other but all extremely interesting. These shows are still ongoing and I wholeheartedly recommend them to any photography lovers who happen to be in the area.

Upon arrival I was lucky enough to be offered an invitation to the opening of the Valencia edition of the World Press Photo 2017 exhibition. The World Press Photo Foundation came to exist in 1955, when a group of Dutch photographers organised a contest to make their work known worldwide. The contest is now a top photojournalism award, with selected single images and series being shown every year in a hundred cities around the world. The organisers insist on the exhibition having exactly the same contents everywhere, with no images omitted regardless of the political situation in the host countries. The Valencia edition is on display at Fundación Chirivella Soriano (a contemporary art venue located in a restored palatial residence at the heart of Valencia’s beautiful old town) from 11 February to 12 March 2017. The focus of this year’s exhibition is the refugee crisis which has made big headlines in Europe recently but which has long raged in multiple locations worldwide due to a broad spectrum of internal and international conflicts and difficult political situations. Other topics of societal relevance are covered alongside this central issue, and my impression was that it was perceived relevance, rather than outstanding technical achievement or sheer spectacularity, that had been the main criterion in picking the shortlisted works. Unmissable for anyone with a passing interest in photojournalism, and, wherever you are, you can pick the venue closest to you from the World Press Photo website.

A baby is handed through a hole in a razor wire barrier to a Syrian refugee who has already managed to cross the border from Serbia into Hungary, near Röszke, August 2015 (World Press Photo of the Year 2016, photo Warren Richardson)

Valencia University’s Centre Cultural La Nau, located at the institution’s original site (also in the old town and within walking distance of Fundación Chirivella Soriano) and featuring an active programme of exhibitions, theatre, music and other cultural activities, is currently hosting as many as three photography-related offerings, well worth a visit if you find yourselves anywhere near the city. El Triomf de la Imatge. El Daguerrotip a Espanya (The Triumph of Image. Daguerreotypes in Spain, 26/01–23/04/2017) explores the fascinating history of the introduction of the daguerreotype, the first publicly available photographic process, from France into Spain (and Valencia) in the mid-1800s, with the help of plentiful original images (printed singly on metal plates coated with a layer of photosensitive chemicals), samples of photographic equipment, press clippings, technical manuals and other documentation, and recent daguerreotypes by present-day photographers who have resurrected the technique in order to explore its creative potential. Moving forward in time, 30x30 Railowsky Underground (26/01–19/03/2017) is one of a series of exhibitions programmed to celebrate the 30th birthday of the historic Railowsky photography bookshop and art gallery (see my notes on another one of these exhibitions recently held at Museu Valencià de la Il.lustració i de la Modernitat -MuVIM, Museum of Enlightenment and Modernity-). Compact but engrossing, the show presents the work of ten photographers and photojournalists with historic links to Railowsky. Last but not least, I am very pleased to tell you that, due to popular demand, the outstanding exhibition Tot està per fer: València Capital de la República 1936–1937 (Our work lies ahead: València, Capital of the Republic 1936–1937) has been extended to 26 March 2017 (see my original notes here). The show presents fascinating historical materials in an effort to recreate the febrile atmosphere of the desperate struggle between the legitimate Republican government and Fascist rebels known as the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), once the Republican cabinet moved temporarily from Madrid to Valencia at the end of 1936. The contents of the exhibition include many photographs (and even a few video fragments) which are among the most compelling documents left over from that crucial time in the history of the city and the country. It is worth recalling that another fascinating (if smaller) recent exhibition (La Mirada de Kati Horna: Guerra i Revolució, 1936–1939 / Kati Horna’s Gaze: War and Revolution, 1936–1939, 01/12/2016–22/01/2017), at Valencia’s Centre del Carme (see my notes here), also presented a selection of images from the Civil War shot by this Hungarian photographer, who, like many other artists and intellectuals, made her way to Spain to support the Republic in its ultimately doomed struggle against General Franco’s rebels.

Spanish dancer, coloured daguerreotype, around 1850
photo by Sandra Balsells from the Sicily series
Kosovan refugees, Morina, Albania, 1999 (photo Gervasio Sánchez)
Funeral procession of pro-Republican militiaman José Suárez González, Valencia, 1936

A first-rate bunch of photography-related offerings in the Valencian capital to celebrate the arrival of Spring. Catch them if you can.