Brassaï came to Spain in the early 1950s to photograph the Holy Week and Seville Fair celebrations. Harper’s Bazaar magazine published a report using the photographs in April 1953, and the artist then prepared a wider selection which was published a year later under the title Seville en fête, with seventy photographs and a series of explanatory texts, including Brassaï’s own article “De la Semaine Sainte à la Féria”. Combining an (involved) outsider’s eye with journalistic objectivity, Brassaï took in all the elements of the Sevillian festivities: bullfighting, dancing, religious processions and so on. The book was translated into a number of languages but remained unpublished in Spain as it contained some images of a less than acceptable social reality that would never have got past the censor. Brassaï’s series of photographs was done at a time when all photographic discussion in Spain vacillated between the burgeoning promotion of tourism and a neorealist style social criticism. Against this background, Brassaï’s Sevillian images connected equally with his Surrealist past and the international humanist photography movement; in the Holy Week photographs, counterbalancing Brassaï’s evident interest in the spectacular religious images there is a focus on the spectators and participants which builds into a very specific atlas of Spanish humanity towards the end of Franco’s autarky. With their dual documentary/expressive nature, these series present neither a folk reading from a traditional European view of Spain, nor any direct political critique.
Concha Calvo Salanova