For many, the past decade has felt like the heyday of the photobook—everywhere you look, there are photobook festivals, photobook reviews, photobook prizes, self-published books. But this recent fascination (craze?) sometimes obscures the fact that the history of the photobook goes back much further than Ed Ruscha's gas stations or Robert Frank's The Americans. And the genre has not only been richly populated in Anglophone countries, but really, the world over.

The exhibition and catalogue Photobooks. Spain 1905-1977 presents a journey through the history of the photobook in Spain, setting off at the beginning of the 20th century and ending in the mid seventies, via a selection from the Museo Reina Sofía Collection, contextualized and accompanied by an assortment of complementary material.

As far as Spain is concerned, the history of photo books is determined by the avatars of its own national history, for instance the Civil War and the transition to democracy. These central events form the focus of some of the finest work produced. Besides these political happenings, the book also tracks the changing social role of peasants and the increasingly prominent place that women took in society.

The world over, the study of photobooks is leading to a reinterpretation of the history of photography and Spain has been at the center of this re-understanding. Along with well-known photographers (such as José Ortiz Echagüe, Ramón Masats, Xavier Miserachs, Francisco Ontañón), the exhibition features a considerable number of practically unknown front-line artists who in their day actually published first-rate photography collections. Thus, the catalogue sheds light on the well-known and the less heralded, providing new perspectives on the country's understanding of itself.

This catalogue is impressively researched and smartly put together. It would be a worthy addition to any photobook lover's library. 


Photobooks Spain 1905-1977
Curation and editing by Horacio Fernández
Publisher: RM/Museo Nacional Centro De Arte Reina Sofía
Hardcover: 264 pages