A photo of Tony, an Ibizan fisherman whose calloused hand over the camera half-hides his face, serves as the gateway to the largest retrospective to date of the American photographer Louis Stettner (New York, 1922-Paris, 2016), whose work is also the first to be presented in Spain.
A disciple of Sid Grossman, but above all of Brassaï, Stettner is considered a brilliant and unique artist, capable of combining elements of both the aesthetic of New York street photography and the lyrical humanism of the French tradition. He drew on multiple channels of inspiration in developing his vast body of work: both artistic and literary sources: Plato, Karl Marx and Walt Whitman, primarily. His interest in philosophy and the social and political issues of the most turbulent period of the 20th century marked his commitment to and concern for the underprivileged. His abundant photographs of workers and labourers reflect his desire to present them as authentic and dignified individuals, regardless of how precarious their working conditions were: "In the midst of the noise, the dirt, the fumes and the risk of accidents, they seemed to me to be very sensitive people, with an innate humanity and a wonderful capacity for organisation and perception of immediate reality. My stay in the factories was one of the most significant experiences of my life".
Stettner worked intensively as a photographer in the Second World War, and what he saw and captured strongly conditioned his conception of life and a firm belief in the human being. Without clinging to either city, his two great workshops were New York and Paris, from where he travelled by land and by sea to his own country, the United States, France and Spain, to whose Mediterranean coast he felt a special attraction.
Like the previous one, the exhibition of the photographer Anastasia Samoylova (USSR, 1984) will be on show until 27 August. Entitled "Image Cities", this artist's project was the winning entry in the first edition of the KBr Photo Award, launched by the Mapfre Foundation in 2021.
Samoylova, who currently lives and works in Miami (Florida, USA), makes a visual study of the increasing integration of the photographic image in the urban environment. Her compositions frame urban complexity in all its problematic beauty, homogenising its layers into seductive and strange visual poems. In her images, human beings hardly appear at all, and when they do, it is usually on a minimal scale compared to the size of buildings and advertisements, pointing to a kind of "endangered species" condition in the face of consumerism and speculation.
The project, which the artist began in Moscow and New York in the summer of 2021, has been completed in fifteen other cities such as Amsterdam, Paris, London, Brussels, Tokyo, Madrid and Barcelona, which in the exhibition is displayed through fifty or so photographs, a corpus selected from among more than two hundred images.
In Samoylova's latest works we can appreciate echoes of the traditional documentary photography approached by figures such as Eugène Atget at the beginning of the twentieth century, as well as Berenice Abbot and Lisette Model, a tradition that was later renewed by Lee Friedlander, Diane Arbus and Carry Winogrand.
Both exhibitions form part of the official section of the PhotoESPAÑA Festival, which thus sets a high standard of quality with these two gigantic artists.