Thursday, January 17, 2013

Jordi Socías

Most of the photos exhibited in Maremagnum, the Jordi Socías retrospective now at the Cervantes Institute in Albuquerque, are black and white and many were made on film.  That makes the show an unusual opportunity to see an art form that has all but disappeared in the digital deluge.  Also, Jordi Socías is a pretty good photographer, though you won't necessarily be able to arrive at that conclusion by only viewing the pictures on display.

There are over a hundred large prints which include examples from a long career as a photojournalist.  Unfortunately this show at the Cervantes repeats the mistake they always make of exhibiting a lot of very big prints with no context.  That is a particularly debilitating situation for a selection drawn from the work of a photojournalist, and the misfortune is compounded by the photographer's quiet style and the fact that he chronicled a period of Spain's history that was high in anxiety but largely bereft of dramatic confrontations.  

After Spain moved on from dictatorship to democracy, Socías focused his efforts on making celebrity portraits.  There is a wall-full of the portraits in a tight grid at the show.  They are quite competent, some are even compelling if you recognize the sitter.  I was quite taken by the picture of a young Arundhati Roy whose fragile beauty Socías captured well.  Of course, I have read Roy's books and am aware of her extraordinary courage and political commitment; I can only wonder how others would see the portrait who do not bring their own context to it.  I thought the picture on the opposite wall of the three young Cubans in the back of a car trumped all the high-priced celebrity.

The Maremagnum show was put together in 2005 to publicize a book with the same title, and it seems Socías has been touring the world with it ever since.  Unfortunately, the book is out of print and there do not seem even to be used copies of it available on Amazon.  Googling Socías images brings up some of his celebrity portrait work, but doesn't give a good account of his career, and the reviews one finds are all the same boiler-plate.  The best interview I found was on the site of a Czech radio station and conducted at the time when the exhibit was passing through Prague.  

I'm intending to return to the Cervantes to view the exhibit without the distraction of the opening night crowd, and perhaps I'll have more to say about Socías after that.  In the meantime I'd be really happy if any of the Spanish visitors to my blog would take the time to comment on Socías  and the current state of photography in Spain.

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