The poet of the camera who took Cartier-Bresson to the Almería desert | Culture

The poet of the camera who took Cartier-Bresson to the Almería desert | Culture
The poet of the camera who took Cartier-Bresson to the Almería desert | Culture

As there are almost always bad times for poetry, the delicate work of photographer Manuel Falces (Almería, 1952-2010) has gone more unnoticed than it deserved since his death, despite the fact that he was a multifaceted figure: professor of Technique and Aesthetics of Photography at the Faculty of Information Sciences of the Complutense University of Madrid, photography critic for EL PAÍS between 1979 and 2008, with more than 600 published articles; researcher, essayist and historian of the photographic medium, and cultural manager. “Photography, like music or grammar, has to be in schools,” he said of what was one of his passions, along with his family and his native land.

His friend, the photographer Jorge Rueda, described Falces’s gaze as “of mist and sweet vagueness.” A phrase that summarizes his taste for blurring, blurring contours and enhancing textures, to create distorted images that transmit a feeling of dreaminess and mystery, a world populated by ghostly figures, influenced by surrealism and abstraction.

The progressive oblivion of his work had a turning point in 2018, when his family established the Manuel Falces Foundation, chaired by his widow, Matilde Sánchez, also a photographer. In addition to various acts, a beautiful volume has been published that summarizes his work and life, Manuel Falces. memory alchemist (2021) and the documentary has been produced Manuel Falces. Mirror Inventory (2023), now on tour in different cities, directed by José Manuel Mouriño, in which the National Photography Prize winner Gervasio Sánchez says of Falces that “there are few photographers who have worked with that subtlety and introspection.” “He distanced himself from reality to tell it with metaphors and symbols,” adds fellow National Prize winner Juan Manuel Castro Prieto. “A poet with a camera,” summarizes another colleague, Pablo Juliá. A outsider of which his friend and photographer Ricardo Martín highlights his “disruptive and anti-conventional vocation.”

Photograph from the ‘Almería-Venecia (LEI-VNC)’ collection, 1992.Manuel Falces
‘The signs of Saturn (Altarpiece)’, 1988. Image provided by the Manuel Falces Foundation.Manuel Falces
‘Giant Polaroid’ collection, image provided by the Manuel Falces Foundation.Manuel Falces
Photograph from the book ‘The Strange Insulas’, published in 1991. Manuel Falces
Photography from the book ‘Cabo de Gata. Memory and light’, 1992.Manuel Falces
Manuel Falces (left) with fellow photographer Gabriel Cualladó, at the Grupo Afal exhibition at the Imagina festival.Matilde Sanchez
Self-portrait of Manuel Falces. Manuel Falces
Photographer Max Pam, portrayed for the ‘ Desde Imagina ‘ collection, in an image provided by the Manuel Falces Foundation.Manuel Falces
‘Aleph’, 1975.Manuel Falces
Photography from the book ‘Cabo de Gata. Memory and light’ (1992).Manuel Falces
The photographer René Burri, in Almería, in 1991, belonging to the ‘ Desde Imagina ‘ collection.Manuel Falces

Of the abundant material she left, Matilde emphasizes that the family has “five exhibitions in boxes, already mounted,” she says by phone. “She Not only did she photograph everything since the late sixties, but one of her efforts was for newspapers to take care of photography.” Sánchez points out that for some time she has been “entering and leaving offices [de políticos] in a fight to manage his work and so that he can have a permanent headquarters.” Today, there are works by Falces, among other collections, in the Reina Sofía Museum, the George Eastman House in Rochester (New York), the Valencian Institute of Modern Art (IVAM) and the Alcobendas Collection.

Falces began playing with his mother’s camera at the age of 13 and shortly after experienced the alchemy of the laboratory. In the beginning he took photos of filming and advertising photography, although he studied Law in Granada. At the beginning of the seventies he was a regular contributor with his photos and texts in the magazine Vanguardia and Aire Fresco. New Lens.

Self-portrait of Manuel Falces, in an image provided by the Manuel Falces Foundation.Manuel Falces

In 1975 he published Introduction to Spanish photography, a critical analysis of the medium at that time. “You read it and many things are still valid,” says Matilde. From 1990 it is The transit, which brings together his photomontages, published on the occasion of an anthology dedicated to him by the Museum of Contemporary Art of Seville. This type of composition always attracted him because, for him, photomontage was “a beautiful disorder where everything fits.”

In addition to his work, Falces deserves to be remembered for the Imagina project, which was commissioned for the Universal Exhibition in Seville in 1992. For just over two years he mounted 70 exhibitions with the greatest international and Spanish authors, to whom In addition, they were invited to take images with absolute freedom in the province of Almería so that they would later form part of the Imagina collection.

“Cartier-Bresson, who was 84 years old, told him that he no longer took photos, that he dedicated himself to painting and drawing. And Manolo told him: well, make drawings,” Matilde remembers. Cristóbal Manuel, Ortega y Gasset Prize winner for Journalism and former Editor-in-Chief of Photography at EL PAÍS, was the one who acted as chauffeur with his yellow Citroën 2CV – the popular “2 horses” – for Cartier-Bresson and his wife, also a photographer Martine Franck. , through the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park. Today he remembers “the difficult personality” of the Frenchman. “Manolo had prepared everything for Cartier-Bresson’s conference, although he knew that he did not like having photographers and cameras when he spoke. He started, he realized they were there, he got up and left.”

One of the film movie sets in Almería, belonging to the ‘The Magic Lantern’ collection. Image provided by the Manuel Falces Foundation.Manuel Falces

William Klein, Cristina García Rodero, Carlos Pérez Siquier, Ouka Leele, Bernard Plossu, Gabriel Cualladó, Martin Parr also passed through Almería… “How could you get them to come? That had never happened in Spain, and above all in Almería, in the desert,” Juliá emphasizes. “He had had contact with some through his work, but with others he did it directly, and no one said no,” adds Matilde.

Falces took advantage of these winning letters to propose to the Andalusian Government the creation of the Andalusian Center of Photography (CAF), based in Almería, which he directed from 1992 to 2006. He carried out an enormous amount of work: 216 exhibitions, 112 free workshops and 33 publications. . The CAF was committed to “a universal vision, and not a narrow one, in the face of localism,” he defended. However, he suffered from the first moment the handicap of the absence of a permanent headquarters. It was not until months after his departure, with Juliá as his successor, that that space was obtained. After the pandemic, the CAF dedicated a retrospective to its founder.

The poet José Ángel Valente, in his home in Almería, in 1991.MANUEL FALCES

The current director of the CAF, Juan María Rodríguez, states that “it is pending in Spanish photography to review the photographers of the seventies, such as Falces and others who published in New Lens; with its lights and shadows, but it must be recognized that they have disappeared a little from circulation.” In the case of Falces, he believes that he could have harmed him by “having been a torrential figure, difficult to label.” He also remembers that Imagina “was the first major photography festival in Spain and anticipated the emergence of this medium.”

Of his other facets, his commitment to the natural beauty of his land stands out, which he shared with the poet José Ángel Valente, who was based in Almería. “He introduced them to the architect who had restored Valente’s house, telling each one: ‘This is your brother,’ Matilde recalls. “I knew there was going to be a great connection between the two.” The friendship crystallized in several books: The strange insulas. Andalusian places of Juan de la Cruz (Turner, 1991), a photographic and literary journey following the Andalusian path of the mystic, a project of the Board for the fourth centenary of the poet’s death.

The photographer René Burri, in Almería, in 1991. Image from the ‘ Desde Imagina ‘ collection, provided by the Manuel Falces Foundation.Manuel Falces

Cabo de Gata. Memory and light (Fundación Unicaja, 1992) arose after the publication of a report in The weekly country. They both shared a look as they toured Cabo de Gata. One took notes and the other shot with the camera. Finally, José Ángel Valente. Forever the shadow (Fundación Telefónica, 2001), with the writer already ill, in which they produced a work on Almeria spaces that later became an exhibition. “We are digitizing Manolo’s work and we have started with the part with Valente,” Matilde emphasizes. “There alone, there are about 3,000 negatives.”

His vast knowledge of photographic history and techniques was reflected in his abundant collaboration with this newspaper, in which he played the missing role of the photographic critic who, in addition to reporting on exhibitions outside the Madrid-Barcelona circuit, brought the Spanish public closer to that happened in the main events in the world. “There is still a lot of work by Falces to discover,” concludes Matilde of a man who, as he said, liked to “take photos that lead to strange territories, to landscapes that are easily translatable into fictional scenarios.”

Linda McCartney, next to the poster for her exhibition at Imagina, belonging to the ‘From Imagina’ collection.Manuel Falces

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