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The exhibition "Ricardo Martín. Photographer and Observer" recalls an author who marked an epoch
Ricardo Martin. A farewell in Pasajes, on the way to the Rif war, 1921. Kubo-kutxa Hall. San Sebastián.

SAN SEBASTIAN.- The Kubo-kutxa gallery in San Sebastian is devoting the fourth exhibition within the special programming to mark the year of San Sebastian’s designation as European Capital of Culture to the photographer Ricardo Martín. Comprising 98 black and white images, the exhibition is recalling a photographer whose work is well known because he photographed the city of San Sebastian during one of its golden eras, but who went unnoticed as an author. Curated by Juantxo Egaña, the exhibition was inaugurated on 3 November and will remain open until 22 January, 2017. Thanks to the collaboration of the Filmoteca Vasca (Basque Film Archive), the screening of a short film of the 1920s is included; entitled San Sebastián y Lasarte, it contextualises and completes the exhibition by allowing one to see Martín’s scenes in motion.

Ricardo Martín embarked on his professional career in 1914 when the illustrated magazines were at their peak. He set up his photographic studio on Fuenterrabía street in San Sebastian, subsequently to be inaugurated in April 1915 with the name of Photo-Carte.

The photographer and his colleagues used to tour the beach and top locations every day. Their photos reported on the latest trends in fashion, including women sporting their novel bathing suits. They were not random snapshots, they sought distinction in their images. The Avenida de la Libertad, Paseo de la Concha and above all the corner of the Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra turned into their backdrops.

Ricardo Martín was a multi-faceted photographer committed to ongoing experimenting. He was a reporter who bequeathed thousands of testimonies, anonymous portraits, accidents, joys and sadness. Martín used to tour the city, its promenades, its beaches, the neighbourhood festivals as well as those put on for the summer visitors.

The exhibition Ricardo Martín. Photographer and Observer is not organised chronologically but according to subjects, and concentrates on the themes and aspects that made this artist unique.As one goes around the exhibition what becomes clear ishow Ricardo Martín saw the turbulent society around him, the importance of observers in his photographs, the hypnotic nature of crowds, the throngs he loved to photograph.In an evocative text Lee Fontanella describes Ricardo Martín as ubiquitous as he seemed to be at all the events taking place at that time, moving naturally among the different social classes.

The city as scenario. For Ricardo Martín the city was a stage. A dance, an accident, a meal at the Basque pelota court or on La Concha promenade; they were all natural sets.

The Rif War. An anti-war perspective. Ricardo Martín was 39 when he set sail for Africa.That was after the Spanish army had lost the garrisons of Annual and Monte Arruit, where thousands of soldiers perished. But Ricardo Martín was not interested in the course of the war but in the human side of the conflict. On the whole, the photos taken in Africa were of groups, mostly young men from Gipuzkoa, and also photos of the wounded returning to the city, and the demonstrations against the war in 1922.

Portraiture. Ricardo Martín was no ordinary portrait photographer in terms of studio photographer, he was an artist who allowed himself to be carried along by spontaneity and intuition.His talent enabled him to produce portraits of his neighbours and also of the figures who passed through the city, including famous writers, actors, artists and politicians: Azorín, Joaquín Sorolla, Jacinto Benavente, Pío Baroja, Niceto Alcalá-Zamora, Charlie Chaplin, Harry d’Abbadie d’Arrast, Douglas Fairbanks, Buster Keaton and Josephine Baker, among others.

The sensation of movement. With his increasingly lighter cameras Ricardo Martín gathered moving images and published them in magazines and newspapers such as La Esfera, El Heraldo Deportivo or As. He photographed swimming competitions, football, cycling and even cars on the Lasarte race track.

Women. A view of modernity. The turn of the century were the years that saw the start of feminist movements, the struggle for women’s rights.They were also years of modernity in which women were playing a more active role. Donostia-San Sebastian lived through those years of the Belle Epoque. The conservative press reproduced a photo by Martín in which he depicted a group of women wearing trousers walking along the Avenida de la Libertad. For the first time women participated in car races in Lasarte, in golf tournaments, in clay pigeon shooting and in sailing races.

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