The Second Spanish Republic fascinated many of the photographers active in the international context during the first half of the 20th century, such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Man Ray and Dora Maar. The latter travelled to Barcelona in the summer of 1933; there, imbued with the spirit of the flâneur (Baudelaire's stroller looking for chance encounters), she wandered through the city taking photographs of anonymous characters. In Mendiant aveugle (Blind Beggar), Dora Maar felt drawn to blindness, a motif that had been recurrent in photography from its very beginnings, because of the paradox of capturing the image of someone who cannot see. Dora Maar plays a game that is both conceptual and aesthetic, by combining elements that seek symbolic efficacy, in harmony with the interests of Surrealism: the subject’s open eyes, which preserve the gesture of seeing but not the sense of sight, the mysterious wrapped object the beggar is holding in his lap (probably a stringed instrument) and the lowered metallic blinds that serve as a backdrop to the character’s drama. This image is evidence of the affinity that Dora Maar felt with the surrealist group; in the opinion of its early theorists, André Breton and Paul Éluard, artists should “train one's eyes by closing them” in order to shape their gaze and direct it towards the alternative reality associated with the unconscious mind.
Almudena Cruz Yábar