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Programme - pdf 977 Kb
Gabriel Casas is one of the most important Spanish photographers of the interwar period. He was of the first photographers in the peninsula to adopt the pictorial language of the New Vision, the movement started in Germany which stirred up the photography field with the use of surprising framing, low angle and high angle shots, light and shape contrasts, photomontages…
The exhibition gathers 120 pictures from one of the photographer’s best moment: from the International Exhibition in Barcelona at 1929 to the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939. Through a visual itinerary, visitors will explore the relation of Gabriel Casas to the New Photography, to questions of modernity and to the social and political issues of his time.
Exhibition produced in conjunction with
The exhibition Gabriel Casas. Photography, news and modernity, 1929-1939 retrieves the figure of one of the most important Spanish photographers of the period between the wars. The exhibition is based on the photographs Gabriel Casas took between the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition and the end of the Spanish Civil War, 1939, the moment when his work reached a peak of maturity.
Gabriel Casas had a good visual training, in which photography had a central role, both in the family sphere –his father and grandfather used photography and painting– and at a professional level –he trained in Rafael Areñas’s photography studio, one of the most important in Barcelona at the beginning of the 20th century.
In the mid-1920s he went freelance, combining news and sports photography with advertising and industrial photography. His photographic production was well received. He started contributing to some of the most important illustrated news magazines of the time, such as Imatges and D’Ací i D’Allà, and worked as a photographer for different departments of the Generalitat de Catalunya (Catalan Government) and Barcelona City Council.
His links to avant-garde art circles, in which photography and film played an important part and were considered the new artistic techniques, led him to become one of the first Spanish professional photographers to use the language of the New Vision. He resorted to aesthetic as well as psychological considerations in his news photographs, in which he used bird’s-eye and worm’s-eye views, photomontage, off-centre lines of symmetry and fragmentation and created a language that broke with mainstream production in Spain at the time and that connected him with the work of the European artistic avant-garde that artists and theorists like László Moholy-Nagy were beginning to promote.
Illustrated magazines and newsreels contributed to the creation of a new form of news reporting that satisfied the needs of a society in which everything was speeding up, in which the image was gaining more and more ground from the written word, and opened the way for audiovisual culture. Gabriel Casas produced a large part of his photographic work as a news photographer. He was one of the few Spanish photographers to make use of aesthetic as well as psychological considerations in his news photography, which had links to the New Vision. His images did more than just describe, they conveyed feelings to the observer/reader, at a time when news photography was going from illustrating texts to becoming news in itself, thereby beginning a new approach to photojournalism.
Gabriel Casas was connected with the avant-garde art movements there were in Barcelona in the 1920s, in which photography had gained protagonism as artistic material. He was one of the first professional Spanish photographers to use the aesthetic resources László Moholy-Nagy had described in his writings. The dissemination of these theories spurred the creation of new visual narratives that changed the look of the printed world. Gabriel Casas applied the language of the New Vision to news photography, advertising and portraiture, years before Spanish society began to familiarise itself with photomontages, unusual angles –bird’s-eye or worm’s-eye views– or offsets from the line of symmetry.
The severe economic crisis that took place after the 1929 crash reduced much of western society to poverty. Economic hardship and the difficult situation of many countries accentuated social differences much more and made political parties and magazines pay special attention to social issues, in which the lower classes began to figure in newspapers, magazines, political campaigns and films. Gabriel Casas, with a documentary aesthetic linked to the most innovative initiatives to have emerged since the late 19th century, like the work of Jacob August Riis, Lewis Hine, Wolfgang Weber and the film directors of the poetic realism school, helped to expose, to show up and create an image of the underprivileged classes and of marginalisation in Barcelona during the 1930s.
The photographic portrait has played an important part in shaping modern culture. Gabriel Casas, like many professional photographers, took an interest in this genre, which since the early days of photography had been one of the commonest activities of the photography studios. When he started, he practised a type of testimonial studio portrait associated with the family photograph, with the perpetuation of the image of the anonymous bourgeoisie of the time. His new work as a news photographer meant he could take a new approach to portraiture related to the printed page and the celebrity worship that emerged during the 19th century. Many of the portraits he produced for magazines and newspapers in the 1930s were not taken in the studio but in the subjects’ natural setting, playing with the aesthetics of candid photography, surrealism or the New Vision.