For the last 20 years during the hot summer months of June, July and August the city of Madrid has provided fans of photography with a unique festival, PHotoESPAÑA which has become an international reference and includes not only photography but film, documentary, video art, workshops, lectures and seminars. This year the festival takes place between June 6th and August 26th with more than 90 exhibitions featuring some 530 artists together with a programme of 21 professional and public activities taking place in 80 centres.
A Celebration of Photography
PHotoESPAÑA was originally founded in Madrid, where it is still based, every year the festival is organised under an overall theme and is divided into two sections; the Official Section includes a range of exhibition venues that are dotted around the city but mainly clustered around the Paseo de la Castellana, the avenue that divides the city west and east off which both The Principal Madrid and Hotel Único Madrid are located. And the Festival Off consists of a series of parallel exhibitions held in mostly private galleries around Madrid. With approximately half a million visitors yearly PHotoESPAÑA is the largest and most popular cultural festival of Spain.
PHotoESPAÑA also sponsors activities carried out in other regional centres around the country in cities that have included Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Toledo and Saragossa. As well as counting on the collaboration of influential art institutions based abroad such as Le Jeu de Paume, Paris and the Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam in addition to other cultural centres based in the United Kingdom, Russia, Finland, Portugal and Turkey, among many others.
The Festival Structure
A general commissioner is selected for PHotoESPAÑA and given a three year tenure, over which time a series of themes and concepts can be fully explored in relation to photography. Over the last three editions the commissioner has been a collective made up of important figures from the field. To mark the 20th anniversary celebrations the commission has invited a photographer to select a number of artists with whom they feel an affinity, an initiative designated as “carte blanche” to organise a number of thematic exhibitions. Last year it was Alberto García-Alix and for the 2018 edition the selected photographer is Cristina de Middel, known for her ludic and alternative approach and who has just been named recipient of the National Photographic Award. Over six exhibitions featuring the work of photographers from the five continents her projects are organised around the concept of Players, “I don’t consider photography as my work, more like play, that I play professionally,” according to the Alicante born artist.
PHotoESPAÑA considers photography under all its genres, from historical to contemporary, photojournalism to fashion spread. This very catholic approach means that visitors are guaranteed to discover recognised masters and emerging talents among the many exhibitions. For the 2018 edition alone the official section includes exhibitions dedicated to Samuel Fosso, Cecil Beaton, Ricardo Cases, Carmen Calvo, Carlos Cánovas and Musuk Nolte among many others.
Spain’s most popular Cultural Festival
The 20th anniversary of PHotoESPAÑA is being celebrated over two consecutive years, 2017 marking the 20th edition and 2018, marking 20 years since its founding in 1998. The festival was originally sponsored by the Fundación Contemporánea and organised by La Fábrica, a privately funded contemporary cultural initiative whose aims include improving society through the artistic disciplines. Nowadays PHotoESPAÑA is a world renowned photography festival that over the years has generated over 1,400 exhibitions featuring over 3,000 national and international artists that reads like a who’s who of photography and all its subgenres. Exhibitions have been held within some of Madrid’s most important cultural institutions; Casa de América, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Círculo de Bellas Artes, Centro Cultural Conde Duque, Fundación Telefónica, Fundación Canal, Centro Cultural de la Villa, Real Jardín Botánico as well as the Museo del Prado.
PHotoESPAÑA Publications & Awards
With a festival this extensive and ambitious a guide book is required to navigate its full potential, given its close collaboration with publishing it’s not surprising that the PHotoESPAÑA guides have become much sought after items over the years. More than 85 collective and monographic exhibition catalogues have also been published by La Fábrica since the festival began, ensuring that its work reaches a world wide audience.
Every year PHotoESPAÑA awards artists, professionals and entities connected with the world of photography. The most prestigious award is the PHE Award that recognises an international figure working in photography. The other awards include the Bartolomé Ros (that recognises the work of a Spanish photographer within any of its sectors), Fotógrafo Revelación (newcomer under 35 years of age based on their work since the previous edition), Descubrimientos (selected by a jury based on a portfolio of work) as well as a general public award del Público, selected from the overall festival and Festival Off award given to a gallery.
Since early on PHotoESPAÑA has become an important international networking resource for professional photographers which is reflected by the Trasaltántica forum, aimed at promoting the work of Latin American photographers. Its educational facet includes a Masters under the auspices of Escuela Internacional Alcobendas. In 2014 the Spanish Minister of Culture awarded the festival with a Medalla de Oro al Mérito en las Bellas Artes recognising the importance of the festival on the international stage as well as underlining the place of photography within the fine arts.
Practical Information for Visiting PHotoESPAÑA
For maps of participating venues and events as well as general information the official offices are located at the Real Jardín Botánico – CSIC (Plaza de Murillo, 2) and La Fábrica (Alameda, 9).
All the PHotoESPAÑA catalogues and associated publications can be found at the official following book shops; Librería Real Jardín Botánico - CSIC. Pabellón Villanueva (Plaza de Murillo, 2), Librería Fernán Gómez. Centro Cultural de la Villa (Plaza de Colón, 4) or at La Fábrica (C/ Alameda 9).