For almost half a century, Hara's camera has scanned Spain in search of its essence; picking up moments and places that reflect his personal vision of a country in permanent transition
Cristóbal Hara (Madrid, 1946) is one of the Spanish masters of color photography. He was part of The Five Horsemen, together with Cristina García-Rodero, Koldo Txamorro, Ramón Zabalza and Fernando Herráez, from whom he would separate to find his own space, his unique way of understanding photography, which coincides with the discovery of the use of the color film in his work in the mid-eighties. Something very rare at the time, which make him, in fact, is one of the first to use color for his most personal work. Cristóbal Hara has never felt comfortable in the “official” world of Spanish photography, preferring to travel in an alternative and more independent way; although not as well known by the general public as other greats of Spanish photography. Hara is a constant reference among a new generation of Iberian photographers, of which some of the names with the greatest external projection are part, within the so-called New Documentary Photography. Bartolomé Ros Award for the best career in Spanish photography in 2016, his work is part of some of the most prestigious collections, such as the Reina Sofía Museum, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam or the Art Institute of Chicago.
2020.02.01 > 2020.03.14
The exhibition Pele amarga (Bitter Skin) presents in Porto a selection of images that covers 50 years of the professional work of Cristóbal Hara, five decades as a photographer that coincide with an essential period in the contemporary history of Spain, the famous Transición. For almost half a century, Hara's camera has scanned Spain in search of its essence; picking up moments and places that reflect his personal vision of a country in permanent transition, with special attention to the rural Spain and those moments in which, as in Don Quixote -the work that in his opinion has best reflected the true nature of the country-, reality and fiction meet.
Inspired by books like “The Americans,” by Robert Frank, Hara has never stopped travelling the roads and villages of Spain to obsessively deepen the portrait of the country that saw him born but from which he lived away the first years of his life.
The title of the show is inspired by a verse from My dear Spain, the song of Cecilia included on the 1975 album Un ramito de violetas (A bunch of violets), in which said she sung, in its original version: My dear Spain, this white Spain, This black Spain / People of word and bitter skin, sweet your promise / I want to be your land, I want to be your grass when I die (...). The lyrics were subject to censorship by the authorities of the time, although the verses were reproduced in text on the back cover of the album as Evangelina Sobredo Galanes wrote them. Both the disc and this tune gave Cecilia an enormous success, a few months after her death in a traffic accident, precisely when the vehicle she was crossing one of those locations that attract the photographer's gaze. An accident that could be understood as another allegory of that confrontation between tradition and modernity, between urban and rural, that flood Hara's images.
Pele amarga collects both images of its first stage in black and white, in the early 70s when he returns to Spain to perform military service, as some of the most emblematic colour captures obtained between 1985 and 2013, in which he concentrates the most recognizable of his production. The selection of works covers a large part of the essential themes of Hara's work, such as the world of bulls, devoid of all the glamour with which it is usually represented; the popular festivals of an atavistic Spain that gradually empties itself to embrace modernity and cities; or religious celebrations that survive the secularization of a severe land like the one that stars in most of his work. Some photographs that may seem hard but, as the author defends, are images that reflect the look of a child. Like the one of the strange youngster that appears portrayed in the last image of the show, a particular self-portrait of how Hara felt upon his return to Spain. One more example of how fiction can be the best way to express reality.
With the support of Blanca Berlín Gallery (Madrid)