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Carmelo Vega de la Rosa, Fotografía en España (1839-2015) : historia, tendencias, estéticas

Madrid, Manuales Arte Cátedra, 2017
Nathanial Gardner
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Carmelo Vega de la Rosa, Fotografía en España (1839-2015) : historia, tendencias, estéticas, Madrid, Manuales Arte Cátedra, 2017.

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1Fotografía en España (1839-2015) : historia, tendencias, estéticas is undoubtedly the most complete book on photography in Spain to date. Written by Carmelo Vega, Professor of Photography at the Universidad de La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain ; this new book is an important addition to Vega’s ample body of scholarly writing on photography. A world-renowned expert on the role of photography and Tourism in Spain, Vega also has several books on the role of photography in Spain and Spanish society. His new book builds upon all those areas of expertise as well as venturing into new territories.

2Fotografía en España (1839-2015) can function as a reference book. It organizes its approach on the study of photography into chapters (14 in total), that are topics such as its practical applications of photography (ch 5 “Aplicaciones de la fotografía”), photography as art (ch 7 “Derroteros de la fotografía artística”), or the bases of contemporary photography (ch 12 “Bases para una fotografía contemporánea”). These subjects can be studied individually or read as an interconnecting whole.

3Vega’s prose flows with great ease. It is jargon free and can be understood and appreciated by both the seasoned expert as well as the photography aficionado. The table of contents is subdivided to the extent that detailed individual topics within each chapter, such as digital magazines (p 662) or photography and social media (p 686), can be easily identified and read with ease and without the need to have read previous chapters.

4Particularly useful to the teacher of photographer are the case studies that Vega includes on his book on photography in Spain. While they are not labelled under that specific of a heading, each chapter contains them. These specific and detailed examples of material that underline the principle thrusts of each chapter. They foreground important examples and identify themselves to the readers so as to become excellent material that could be used in the classroom setting with students or simply as material to help the reader cement in his or her mind the important points of each chapter.

5Much of Vega’s focus is dedicated to evidencing the growing role of photography in the Spain, and indeed the world in which we live. He employs specific examples in order to now how photography was employed to show cultural, ethnographic and folklore in Spain to those who are not familiar with it. His book does much to contextualize photography in Spain, showing the reader both how it became prominent as well as how it became a documentary force for the country.

6Especially useful to the reader of this book are the chapters that underline important photographers in Spain (both national as well as foreign). These sections identify the photographers such as Charles Clifford (England) and Jean Laurent (France) as well as Vicente Peydró and Antonio Campañá (both from Spain). In addition to identifying key photographers so that the reader, Vega’s book situates them within the historical context of Spain and Spanish photography. The author also shares his aesthetic evaluations that assist the reader in knowing the artistic value of the photographs his subjects of study produced.

7The photographs within this book expertly selected and placed. They are an engaging combination of new material that introduces the reader to images that are key to their visual literacy as well as providing examples of classic photography that evidence canonical trends and photographers. Additionally, the visual stimuli in Vega’s book is plentiful. Each one of the fourteen chapters contains dozens of photographs. The volume uses high-quality paper, and this is a strong benefit to the presentation of the photographs as well, all of which does credit to the well-established publishing house and is able to offer to the reader the accustomed excellence that Cátedra offers.

8In the final chapter of his history of photography, Vega includes a section that is plays another key role in allowing this volume to be noteworthy : one on the role of critical writers on photography. His focus on the critics is useful in that allows us to see how photography has grown as an art form in addition to directing the reader to further writings that can help to expand the reader’s understanding of photography and its role in society.

9Carmelo Vega’s Fotografía en España (1839-2015) : historia, tendencias, estéticas is excellent. It is well written, timely, comprehensive, and essential. It can been read by anyone with an interest in photography as a book that introduces them to the role of photography in Spain, or it can be used as a reference book or guide for the student or scholar.

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Nathanial Gardner, « Carmelo Vega de la Rosa, Fotografía en España (1839-2015) : historia, tendencias, estéticas »Amerika [En ligne], 18 | 2018, mis en ligne le 22 juin 2018, consulté le 09 juillet 2020. URL :

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Nathanial Gardner

University of Glasgow

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