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North of Africa


The future University of Navarra Museum has its origin in the figure of the Spanish photographer José Ortiz-Echagüe. In 1990 the University of Navarra received the donation of his legacy. This important artistic heritage was initially made up of about 1,500 photographs and 30,000 negatives, and has grown since then through further donations and acquisitions. Today it has over 100,000 items – including photos and negatives – and is considered to be the most relevant collection of photographs taken in Spain, by both Spanish and international authors, since the beginning of the history of photography until today. From 2014 the collection will be housed in the University of Navarra Museum in Pamplona, which is currently under construction and is designed by Rafael Moneo. A Museum that is born after having received another important legacy, that of the María Josefa Huarte collection of painting and sculpture. “North of Africa” is the title under which the images referring to the territories in which José Ortiz-Echagüe carried out his early years as a balloon navigator are collected and grouped, and which originally would belong to the Spanish Airborne Army. He took aerial photography for military purposes, but he also established what is considered to be the embryo of his later work, Tipos y Trajes [Types and Costumes]: the documentary approaches and the treatment of the photos with pictorial and pigment techniques – of which he became a master – and particularly on direct carbon prints in an attempt to tone down the sharp immediacy of the photographic document. This exhibition takes on a special importance for two reasons. On the one hand it shows us the work that marked out the later style of this photographer and which lasted throughout his career. At the same time, it represents the book that he always wished to produce and was never able to do so personally. Today this is being done by his grandson and exhibition curator, Javier Ortiz-Echagüe, whose valuable work as a curator has been enriched through dialogue with two great students of this legacy and consultants to the University of Navarra Museum Collection, Valentín Vallhonrat and Rafael Levenfeld. With “North of Africa”, the University of Navarra Museum is revisiting the work of José Ortiz-Echagüe, granting continuity to one of its founding aims: to conserve and show the work of one of the most outstanding photographs in the Spanish field in the XX century. It is an honour to be able to present this exhibition at the MNAC, fifteen years after that which was the anthological exhibition by this same artist, which took place in this same museum, in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and in the Hotel Sully in Paris. I urge you to visit it, for your enjoyment and education. Miguel López-Remiro Director of Museo Universidad de Navarra

The Catalonia National Museum of Art is pleased to present the exhibition North of Africa. Ortiz Echagüe, a showing of 72 works belonging to one of this photographer’s most unique and fascinating periods. A journey through his first experiments carried out during his stay in Morocco, where he was posted as a military engineer and where his knowledge of photography allowed him to serve in a military observation balloon. Ortiz Echagüe is considered to be the greatest exponent of pictorialist photography in Spain. Pictorialism proposed the use of techniques that evoked the manual work of painting, as well as its symbolic, picturesque or sublime subjects. In 1998, the Catalonia National Museum of Art, with the collaboration of the Photographic Holding of the University Foundation of Navarra, presented the first major anthological exhibition of Ortiz Echagüe’s works, after him not having any exhibition in Spain for the last thirty years. Now, in a further collaboration between the Catalonia National Museum of Art and the University of Navarra Museum, we are presenting the fruit of the research that has been carried out by Javier Ortiz-Echagüe, the author’s grandson, who has also acted as the curator of this exhibition. The Catalonia National Museum of Art would like to thank the curator and all of the team of the University of Navarra for the collaboration received in order to carry out this exhibition.

Pepe Serra Director of the Catalonia National Museum of Art

*Javier Ortiz-Echagüeis a lecturer at the Madrid Carlos III University and was formerly a visiting scholar at the University of New York. He was assistant curator of the exhibition Desbordamiento de Val del Omar in the Museo Reina Sofía, in the scope of which he published the critical edition of the writings of José Val del Omar, Escritos de técnica, poética y mística (2010). His works on the history of art and on photography have appeared in magazines such as History of Photography, Revista de Occidente, ZER, and Goya.

NORTH OF AFRICA Javier Ortiz-Echagüe

“I am very interested photographically in the North of Africa”, stated José Ortiz Echagüe in 1968. Around about that time he was already towards the end of his career. His photographic work was well known, although he had never devoted himself to it professionally. He had always been an amateur, someone who devoted most of his time to a long career as an engineer: firstly in the aeronautical industry (at the head of the Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA company since 1923), and then later in the car industry (as chairman of the Spanish Touring Cars Society, SEAT, since 1950). As a photographer, besides presenting his pictures at exhibitions, he published four major books about Spain, which were extremely widely distributed both in Spain and abroad. Over the last years of his photographic activity he planned to return to Africa in order to complete his editorial project. On several different trips – he stated on a separate occasion – “I enriched my copious archive with lots of negatives from Africa that I am now thinking of dedicating a fifth book that is equal in importance to those I have already published”. The series about the North of Africa should complement the portrait of the Spanish people, landscapes and architectures that he had carried out throughout his long career. In the middle of the sixties he tried to bring this project to fruition, but the book never managed to get published. The fact that it was his last photography project shows the importance that this part of Ortiz Echagüe’s work had for him. His photographic career – it may be said – started and ended looking at the North of Africa. That is what I aim to defend here: that this first African period was the most fertile in photographic experimentation of his career. And at that time was born the working method that he will apply in the Spanish-themed series that he carried out over the following decades. In Morocco Ortiz Echagüe experimented with a multitude of technical and stylistic options. Over time he discarded most of them. But the particular method of working he developed in his book España. Tipos y trajes was precisely carried


out during this period. Therefore, although attention on his work has often centred on popular costumes, the Moroccan work provides some of the fundamental keys to his later activity. The Aerostat Unit Photography Service Ortiz Echagüe was a military engineer. As soon as he ended his studies at the Guadalajara Academy, in July 1909, he settled in San Sebastian, intended for the local engineering regiment. About the same time the Rif zone was turning into a conflict area. Since the previous year the Rif Berbers had been attacking the mining activities that the Spanish had in the zone of Gurugu, near to Melilla. These confrontations were intensified throughout the summer of 1909, reaching their highest point on the 27th of July. On that day the Spanish suffered a defeat that resulted in over 150 deaths and almost 600 wounded, in the area of Barranco del Lobo. This crisis led to a further sending of troops to the Rif zone, among whom was Ortiz Echagüe himself. The mobilization of reinforcements to Morocco, which reached 17,000 men in July 1909, caused great controversy in Spain. The bloody deaths and the financial costs of the colonial wars of 1898 were still heavy in popular memory. Many people did not understand the reasons for a new war. “We went without knowing why we went”, stated Ortega y Gasset in Vieja y nueva política [Old and New Politics], his famous 1914 conference. The sending of troops throughout the summer raised strong complaints about the unfairness of the recruiting system, which was of benefit to those who could afford to pay the so-called “redención a metálico” [the commutation fee]. The slogan that the socialists brandished during the Spanish American War of 1898, “either everyone or no one”, was used again in 1909. The series of protests reached its height in Barcelona, where it gave rise to a wave of violence followed by extremely harsh repression. These events, which ended up being called the Tragic Week, took place at exactly the same time as the events in Barranco del Lobo, and ended with almost a hundred deaths in Catalonia. Such was the climate of opposition that the President of the Government, Antonio Maura, resigned his post on the 21st of October 1909. Within this context of instability and tensions, Ortiz Echagüe was a young man from a family with a military tradition. He himself pointed out how much the “Disaster of 1898”, (the loss of the final Spanish colonies), had affected him personally and in family terms. “I was 12 years old,” he would tell Gerardo Vielba some years later, “and I lived my family’s tragedy, when periodically my father, my brother and my uncle, all soldiers, would be selected for the campaigns in Cuba and the Philippines. One cannot imagine the impression that I suffered at that age at the loss of the colonies and the return of our compatriots consumed by yellow fever”. Ten years later, the situation was still very similar. After 1898 the main field for military action was in Morocco. And on the 11th of September 1909 he himself departed for Melilla, where he arrived the next day. When Ortiz Echagüe detailed his trip to Morocco, he directly associated it to his practice as a photographer. “At the time I was already hooked on photography,”


he stated in 1962 to the daily newspaper Ya, “so when I finished my studies in 1909, at the age of 23, I was called up to join an Airborne Balloon Company that was in Melilla, because of the events at Barranco del Lobo. There I used the photographic services. Then I carried out my first campaigns with primitive cameras from a captive balloon at the beginning of our last series of African wars”. Ortiz Echagüe had practised photography as an impassioned amateur since his adolescence, and his knowledge in this field were of particular use to the Aerostat Unit. So that during his stay at the Guadalajara Academy the possibility of him being dedicated to the balloon navigation had come up, and became a fact when he arrived in Melilla. Once in Africa he immediately took possession of the photography service, “which involved,” as he recalls, “being the sole and permanent occupier of the basket of the Parseval balloon, which on the almost permanent windy days was something rather unpleasant …” This situation was reproduced, with variations, during Ortiz Echagüe’s first stays in North Africa: a first one, between September 1909 and January 1910, during the campaign to recover the territories lost in Barranco del Lobo; and a second stay between February and June of 1912, during the River Kert campaign. Later on he had a further stay in Tetouan, between November 1913 and January 1915, which apparently was less troublesome. At that time the protectorate had been established, with its capital in Tetouan, and the predominating activity was no longer balloon navigation but aviation. Rif from the Air Thus, Ortiz Echagüe’s fundamental activity when arriving in Morocco was military photography. The several different attempts to carry out aerial photography at least from Nadar in the 1850s are well known. Yet the systematic use of photography for military purposes was probably not seriously set up until the First World War. In the Spanish case this took place a little earlier, in the 1909 Rif campaign. Aerial photography – it was stated in the Enseñanzas de la campaña del Rif en 1909 [Teachings of the Rif Campaign in 1909], published by the Army General Staff shortly later – should serve to “acquire knowledge of the enemy camp, thereby obtaining views, sketches and photographs from the basket of the balloon, observation of the enemy and the correction of artillery fire”. These works must have functioned with a certain success. The above-mentioned Enseñanzas referred to aerial photography as an instrument that was “extremely useful” and “very recommendable […] in the preparation and carrying out of all the operations that were undertaken”. This was the case – it was said – in the actions in the Gurugu zone, an undulating territory which offered easy hiding places for the Rif Berbers, and where observation from the air was a basic element for drawing up maps and correcting fire. Ortiz Echagüe himself must have participated in that campaign as soon as he joined the Aerostat Unit, which during the winter of 1909 was dedicated to the


“recovery of territories lost from the Gurugu, where the tragedy of Barranco del Lobo had taken place”. Over the following years Ortiz Echagüe’s record highlighted the photographs and sketches he took and made from a fixed balloon in Ishafen, at the end of February and the beginning of March 1912, and in different places close to Tetouan throughout 1914. His archive still includes two aerial views taken in Morocco. Both were developed on transferred carbon, which makes one think that it was not strictly military in its purpose. He must have taken them for himself, given that he never published them nor presented them at competitions. In one of them one can see, from high up, the course of a river near to a train line, somewhat blurred, between the clouds. The other one shows a mountain range seen from a plane, the wing of which can be slightly seen in the photograph itself. This makes one think that this picture dates from Ortiz Echagüe’s last stay in the Rif, in 1914, when he was now an airplane pilot. Another series of aerial views of different Spanish cities, which appeared in the Estudio histórico del Cuerpo de Ingenieros [Historical Study of Corp of Engineers], published in 1911, can also be associated to Ortiz Echagüe. For example, a view of Soria, where Ortiz Echagüe carried out balloon trips on several occasions throughout that year. However, these pictures are only exceptions. Other than those mentioned, it is not possible to locate any other of the aerial views that Ortiz Echagüe took in the Rif. That is significant as to his activity attitude as a photographer, as he did not attach any importance to this type of images which, however, played an emblematic role in the development of avant-garde photography. Many people have had occasion to point out that aerial photographs portraying objects taken from a great distance, supposed a greater degree of “abstraction”, and thus facilitated the aesthetic contemplation of images that in principle had been taken with a practical aim. Ernst Jünger, who dedicated one of his photobooks to german aviation during the First World War, wrote in 1930 that photography is one of

España coming out of its hangar. Postcard. Hauser y Menet, c. 1910 The dirigible España, c. 1910


those “instruments of technical awareness” that allows one to see further than usual; a manifestation of the progressive “abstraction” of modern warfare, in which human beings are represented, “in the best case as little dots”. Almost twenty years earlier, Marinetti claimed he had written the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Literature “Sitting astride the fuel tank of an airplane, my stomach warmed by the aviator’s head”. This text, dating from May 1912, when Ortiz Echagüe was in the Rif, evoked the new prospects allowed by aviation: “Looking at the objects from a new point of view […], from straight down, that is, I have basically been able to break with the old logical restraints and the lead lines of ancient understanding”. Thus was set out the search for new settings, capable of showing “what they eye doesn’t see”, that the photographers of the New Vision proposed some years later. In this manner the issue of aerial photography went beyond the purely military aspect. At the end of the twenties, aerial shots would be a common genre at photography salons. A book such as Das Lander Deutschen, by Robert Petschow (1931), is an example of how far this fashion managed to go. Photographs of the Aerostat Unit Some of Marinetti’s writings were known in Spain through the translations that had been published since 1909 by Ramón Gómez de la Serna in the magazine Prometeo, and his ideas had a certain echo in the Spanish press. However, there is no evidence that Ortiz Echagüe might have paid any attention to these approaches, nor to this type of images, beyond their strictly military function. It is very difficult to locate the military pictures by Ortiz Echagüe. These photographs are stored in the archives unsigned, in line with the technical and impersonal function to which they were destined. Yet it is clear that he had to have made countless pictures of this type, as he record indicates that on the 1st of February 1910, immediately after his return to Melilla in order to rejoin the Guadalajara Academy, “he took charge of the photography service”. His archives still retain some pictures related to this work.

Untitled, 1910 Untitled, 1910


For example, a showing of a balloon in flight, followed by a group of soldiers; another one humorously shows a group of Academy students asleep over their books. None of these images was ever shown in public. The only material related to aviation that was made public was a series of postcards about the activities of the dirigible España, published by the Hauser y Menet publishing house around 1910. The full collection was signed by Ortiz Echagüe, and largerly matches with a series of photographs currently conserved in the Spanish General Archive of the Air in Madrid, and which, although these photos are not signed, can easily be attributed to him. Several of these photographs showed the dirigible in the air, in most cases with some other element, such as the trees in the landscape, which would serve as a framing for the balloon. These are relatively simple photographs, at least when compared to other ones by the same author. For example, he never used to leave practically bare skies in his carbons, like those which one can find here. But Ortiz Echagüe probably never considered these pictures to be his work in the strict sense, nor did he ever grant them artistic consideration. At least he never presented them in exhibitions, and their showing was restricted to a formal publication in postcard format, possibly with a commercial intent or of propaganda about the activities of the Academy. By contrast, here one may be reminded of the attitude taken by Alfred Stieglitz, who, in the October 1910 issue of Camera Work, published two photographs similar to these by Ortiz Echagüe. One of them shows a dirigible and another shows an airplane. Both of them date from the same year, are greatly abstract and are practically limited to showing the plane in flight against a more or less rich background of clouds. Ortiz Echagüe may have known of these works, at least their reproductions in magazines. He himself stated on one occasion that during those first years of his career he intensely followed “the world photographic movement” (although we aren’t certain of what sources he looked into, as most of his library for those years was lost during the Spanish Civil War). In any case, it is interesting to compare the diversity of attitudes: Ortiz Echagüe never presented these images of the modern world in exhibitions. The

View of Soria, 1910 The Dirigible España, c. 1910


work he exhibited in the art world was restricted to the series of popular characters and other more consolidated subjects. And this was when not only Stieglitz, but also many other photographers regularly cultivated these subjects. One can only look at what was published in Photograms of the Year – for which Ortiz Echagüe was the Spanish correspondent – in the nineteen twenties and thirties in order to prove that airplane photography was a subject that was usually represented in photography salons. Artistic Photography The fact that a photography enthusiast would end up being devoted to these subjects in their military career was something relatively normal. Other photographers, perhaps the most well known of which is Edward Steichen, worked on taking aerial photography during the First World War. And in the case of Steichen, there could be no greater contrast between his work as an enthusiast, who was very close to pictorial formulae, and the photographic Works he made for the Allied armies. The exact same thing took place with Ortiz Echagüe. In his case, what is most significant is that he never presented these pictures in what he sent to exhibitions and magazines. Some photographs of static air balloons were published in a postcard format, but none of them was developed on carbon paper nor was presented at exhibitions under his name. The ones that were published in the above-quoted Estudio histórico del Cuerpo de Ingenieros appeared anonymously. This all clearly defines his attitude as a photographer: in the artistic field he restricted himself to presenting scenes of everyday life, whilst the pictures of modern subjects, which Alfred Stieglitz was happy to present in Camera Work, remained in archives or were published with no indication as to authorship. Ortiz Echagüe was interested in a very different kind of photography. When he was sent to Africa, in 1909, he already had a certain recognition on the part of the critics, despite the fact that at the time he was only just twenty one years old. Graphos Ilustrado, in its October 1906 issue, published twelve photographs of his, and several of them appeared again in the magazine La Fotografía in April 1907. In that same year the British annual Photograms of the Year included a photo of his, and from then on it continued to do so almost every year. These publications show his prolific production, with a variety of genre and techniques that show the tests being carried out which were normal in the early years. Popular types were already one of his favourite genres. Some pictures, such as Sermón en la aldea [Sermon in the Village], Riña en la era [Brawl on the Farm], or Ruda labor [Harsh Work], could be placed within this context. Even so, the Ortiz Echagüe of 1909 was not exclusively a photographer of daily life scenes. In the above-quoted issue of Graphos Ilustrado devoted to his work one can see a great variety of options. For example, a picture called La música was published there, showing a young lady sitting on an old seat with a violin in her hand. In comparing this with other photographs one can see that the young lady is the photographer’s sister.


But the title invited to a symbolic reading, where the main point wasn’t its documentary value but it’s allegorical meaning, like in academic painting. This was something that was very common, indeed, in pictorialist photography, from Oscar Rejlander in Victorian England to members of the photographic circles in which Ortiz Echagüe was training, such as Antonio Cánovas del Castillo (better known as Kaulak), and Luis de Ocharán. Something similar took place with the picture that Graphos Ilustrado entitled La vida del labrador [The Life of the Farmer], (which at the time was presented as Ruda labor [Harsh Work]). What appeared with this work was a photographic triptych, straight at the bottom and curved at the top. This format invited one to a narrative reading of the sequence. The left-hand image showed a farm worker with a hoe, wiping away his sweat. On this occasion the picture had a direct literary correspondence. This was an illustration, dot by dot, of what Unamuno wrote in Paisajes [Landscapes] (a book published in 1902, three years before this photograph was taken): “Look at him; he rests his hoe on the ground; he raises up his gaze, lifting up his head, wiping away the sweat of his brow with the back of his calloused hand, and looks at the mountains that look back at him in silence...”. In the central image we can see the same farm labourer, with his wife and three children, eating outdoors, under the shade of a tree. On the right the same character would appear again with the hoe over his shoulder, moving forward along a path that is lost over the horizon, so that it could represent his return to work as the end of a day’s work. This triptych structure referred directly to the fin-de-siècle models of art, when this format was a true fashion. And not only in painting: in photography one can recall cases such as the Decorative Panel by Frank Eugene, published by Camera Notes in April 1900, or the series about the prodigal son by F. Holland, which appeared in Photograms of the Year 1910. All of these works indicate the link between the young Ortiz Echagüe to the models that at the time were called “pictorial photography” [fotografía pictórica] in

Sermon in the Village, 1903


Music, c. 1910

Spain. The young photographer then practised many of the more extended genres, formats and techniques: he carried out allegories, local customs scenes and family portraits; he worked with circular and triptych formats; and he developed his pictures on bluish, ivory or sepia papers. The Paradox of the “African Theme” This stylistic variety in the work that Ortiz Echagüe carried out before 1909 should serve to define – by contrast – that which was carried out in the Rif and from then on. On arriving in Morocco – he wrote – “aviation […] took up almost all of my time and only brief escapades maintained my activity within the field of artistic photography”. His main activity would be aerial photography, and it was only in his free times that he could devote himself to make a different type of images. In this aspect, he himself stated that “the african themes (thematic) were at that time my favorite ones”. Indeed, on arriving at the Rif, Ortiz Echagüe devoted himself to an activity that would occupy him over the following decades: taking a photographs of a type of life that is alien to modernity, which appears as uncontaminated, yet in danger of disappearing. In this sense – and that is what is truly interesting – one should note that although he continued to carry out posed photos, he completely abandoned allegories, giving himself totally to a work of documentation which now did without the formats such as the triptych. In Africa, Ortiz Echagüe did not abandon his personal work as a photographer, but left aside certain techniques and formats that he would never use again. This commitment to a documentary project about African people would from the outset establish a certain contradiction. On the one hand there was the making of a photographic record of the traditional ways of life; and on the other hand there was a military activity that was leading towards the eradication of these very traditions. As the representative of a colonial army, Ortiz Echagüe was in that paradoxical situation that would dominate his whole photographical career. Spanish presence in Rif appeared – at first – as a “work of civilisation”, that should not affect the sovereignty of

The Life of the Farmer, c. 1910


the Sultanate. Nevertheless, “civilization” supposed the alteration of local ways of living, and thus Ortiz Echagüe devotes himself to these customs and traditional costumes that his presence as a military official was leading towards. Susan Sontag observed this paradox somewhat precisely: “From the start”, she wrote in On Photography, “photographers not only set themselves the task of recording a disappearing world but were so employed by those hastening its disappearance”. In the case of Ortiz Echagüe, the tasks of registering and extinguishing coincide within the same person. Simplicity as Axiom If one compares the African pictures with the allegories that Ortiz Echagüe carried out before 1909, there is a clear contrast. What he took in the Rif was not in any way a photo-journalistic reportage. Most of the photos were developed on carbon paper, a technique which demanded hands-on manual intervention, and on the paper that Echagüe used to work with, would take on a texture like crayon drawings. Even so, the purpose of these photographs was to leave a testimony to a way of life that could only be discovered by those who went to the Rif. In Ortiz Echagüe’s work one may see the characters set in their usual contexts and activities. His portraits of Rif Berbers or scenes that have to do with life in that area, such as the barber shop or the pictures of the Souks, responded to that intention to document the reality of the place. However, in most cases one could also see an attempt at simplifying and work on the image that was very far from the aesthetics of the flash-bulb as had been practiced by magazine journalists. This can be seen, for example, in recalling other images that Ortiz Echagüe might have taken into account on travelling to Morocco. A clear example is the album on his journey to Morocco that Francisco Echagüe, uncle of the photographer, made in 1894. This book, published by the Hauser y Menet phototype house in the same year, was a photographic report of the diplomatic journey

Francisco Echagüe, Recuerdo del viaje de la embajada española a Marruecos en 1894 [Souvenir of the journey of the Spanish Embassy to Morocco in 1894], Madrid, Phototypia by Hauser y Menet, [1894]


by General Martínez Campos to the North of Africa. The report made was informative, with a mixture of exotic images and the narrating of the Spanish diplomatic visit to Morocco. In this, as in other photo-journalistic projects at the time, the major issue was the great views of places with lots of human figures. And even when it was a matter of the portrait, this was full body against a landscape or architecture background. In many of the pictures that Ortiz Echagüe made in the Rif one can see a contrary process, one of simplification, of emphasis on the composition in order to stress what is fundamental. This might be the case of Peluquería rifeña [Rif Hairdressers], in which a daily life scene stands out through a composition in which two figures fill the whole space of the image. That of Dos amigos [Two Friends], which shows an Arab, a collaborator of the Spanish, with his horse, against a neutral background, so that the image becomes a sort of symbol of the relationship between the Arabs and their horses. Ortiz Echagüe took many portraits of this kind, in which the monumental figures stand out against a practically neutral background. In many of them the composition was usually simple, marked out by a strong diagonal that determined the whole image. Many photographs correspond to this scheme: Fuente mora [Moorish Fountain], with its strong diagonal that separates a background that has been erased of its forefront detail; Moro al viento [Moor in the Wind], which is of special note due to the lightness of the robes worn; the Vendedor de babuchas [The Slipper Salesman], whose face is framed by two curves as in an oval. The passage from major compositions populated with figures to this monumental aspect and simplification of the image would link Ortiz Echagüe to the tendencies of the international pictorialism of his time. It is suffice to recall, for example, that which was stated by H. Oliver Bodine in the September 1911 issue of Camera Craft (a magazine with which Ortiz Echagüe would collaborate on occasion): “It can almost be laid down as an axiom that the more simple the subject and treatment, the more successful will be the result; alt least were pictorial photography is concerned”. It appears that a good part of Ortiz Echagüe’s work deals with responding to this advice. His photographs, which are simple yet striking, worked out and prepared in terms of pigment, contrast with the images full of people in which the spectator can easily become lost in the details. From Pictorialism to Anthropology All of this allows one to define the form in which Ortiz Echagüe practised photographic reportage, which, as one can see, was very different to that of the photojournalists or amateur military photographers that wished to document the current times they were facing. If what he made could be called reportage it is, from the outset, in a somewhat peculiar sense. Probably the project that has most parallels with this way of making photography was, at the time, that which was set out by Edward S. Curtis. Just like Ortiz Echagüe, Curtis started out by collaborating in photographic art salons, but in 1898 – the


same year in which Ortiz Echagüe got his first camera – he began his project to systematically document the lives of North American native Indians. He himself, in the first volume of his monumental work, The North American Indian (1907), wrote that his intention was to document the life “of a people who are rapidly losing the traces of their aboriginal character and who are destined ultimately to become assimilated with the ‘superior race’”. These declarations clearly reflect the colonialist mentality, in the American case linked to the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, which justified the “assimilating” of the conquered peoples. It is not necessary to stress the parallels between this attitude and that of Ortiz Echagüe, steeped in the “civilising” campaign of the Spanish in the Rif. Yet in this sense the figure of Ortiz Echagüe is peculiar, given that he, unlike Curtis, did not go to Morocco as a romantic traveller nor as a scientific researcher, but rather as a military man whose mission was precisely to “assimilate” those territories for a colonial power. His record shows how in his last stay in Rif, during 1914, he had to pilot a plane dedicated to bombing determined zones closet o Tetouan, so his relationship with the Rif Berbers is more complex and contradictory than Curtis’s with the Indians. Instead the parallels between Curtis and Ortiz Echagüe would have to be sought in their conception of photography. Curtis had no doubt in stating that his main aim was documentation, but this did not prevent him having an aesthetic intention. “The fact that the Indian and his surroundings”, he stated, “lend themselves to artistic treatment has not been lost sight of, for his country one may treat limitless subjects of an aesthetic character without in any way doing injustice to scientific accuracy”. For him there was no opposition between the documentary character and the artistic aspiration of his work. Indeed, he had no problems in using pictorialist techniques, he retouched photos when he thought it necessary and he took posed portraits, landscapes and compositions with one or more figures. Something paradoxical, which he himself tried to explain in a somewhat confused manner. In an article published in 1900, Curtis spoke of photography as an “art-science” (an expression that would also be used by some Camera Work critics), the basis of which is “the study of light and shade, composition and perspective”. In this aspect he basically agreed with Ortiz Echagüe. He also thought that photography was “first and foremost a document”; which didn’t prevent him from stating that “first of all is interest in the subject, the beauty of the composition, the harmony of the lights, the shaping of the figures and the movement of the scene”. Having such an approach, Ortiz Echagüe was very far from the formal rigour of other documentary projects like that of August Sander, who took systematic face-on portraits of one or more individuals, leaving out landscapes, groups in movement or other possible options. The demands of clarity and serial nature of the documentary style of the period between the wars (1919-1939), do not serve to describe these projects that oscillated between formal freedom and the systematic nature in the observation of characters in their natural surroundings. For this reason, in her history of photography


(Photography. A Cultural History, 2002), Mary Warner Marien defined Curtis’s work as “anthropological pictorialism”; a paradoxical formula that serves to describe the ambiguity of these first documentary projects of the XX century. All of this can clearly be seen in Ortiz Echagüe’s Rif photographs. On the one hand it is clear that he has an intention for simplification, the study of lighting and the formal resources. Many critiques at the time, like those published in La Fotografía or in Graphos Ilustrado, precisely highlighted Ortiz Echagüe’s ability to compose these figures: these are images in which nothing appears to have been left to chance. But along with this, in no case were studio photos. They all come from in situ observation of characters, which justifies the documentary nature of the work. “I strongly believe,” stated Ortiz Echagüe, “that the most important part for a photographic artist to achieve the desired success lies in the resolution to put oneself into contact with characters in their own native corners, to follow their customs, to observe and try to capture them in their own environment”. Contact with the characters was, then, a fundamental element. It might have been interesting to know some more about Ortiz Echagüe’s relationship with his models, as some witnesses, like Víctor Ruiz Albéniz (El Tebib Arrumi) in his España en el Rif [Spain in the Rif], (1921), recalled the religious terror that some Rif Berbers felt when they were being portrayed. In any case, what is clear is that Ortiz Echagüe wanted to oppose the more simple method of “shutting ourselves away in a setting, taking the costumes from the nearest museum and contracting professional models. With such models we will have laid out things for the most guaranteed failure. Neither would the models know how to wear the clothes, nor would the hairstyles be fitting, nor would the attitudes that are indispensable …” Peoples and Landscapes of the Rif Insistence on the need to establish a relationship with the characters’ surroundings can be seen in some of Ortiz Echagüe’s photographs, which show those portrayed in the context of the Rif landscape. The most well-known of them was the one entitled Fantasía [Fantasy], which shows Arab horse riders in the Gurugu Mountains. These equestrian exhibitions, intended to symbolically represent the warlike virtuosity of the Rif Berbers, became known in Europe once the Romantic travellers spread tales and pictures about this subject, the most well known ones of which were perhaps the paintings done by Eugène Delacroix after his trip to Morocco in 1832. And this was one of the elements which most attracted the attention of the Spanish who lived in the Rif. “The horse is their other self”, summed up El Tebib Arrumi in his above-quoted España en el Rif (1921), in which he also enthusiastically described the fantasies that he had been able to witness himself. Ortiz Echagüe’s photography registered precisely the moment when the horse riders carried out these exercises, with the Rif Mountains as a background. During his


first stay in Morocco Ortiz Echagüe carried out a similar visit, on which one could see Rif Berbers on horseback in the middle of the landscape. In these pictures the point of attention is clearly located at the forefront, made up of vegetation and in which the characters are place. The mountains are reduced to practically flat shapes, forming a background which is progressively blurred. Some pure landscapes are only conserved in the work he carried out during this period. In a few cases are these urban views, and in others there is a landscape with vegetation in the foreground and a city in the background, which thanks to the scratching of the image takes on an extraordinary luminosity. It is striking that Ortiz Echagüe only photographed landscapes very occasionally, when this was one of the most often photographed subjects by the pictorialist photographers. In fact, years later he himself would dedicate a monographic book to this subject. But he only centred on landscapes once he considered that popular figures were now an exhausted subject. And indeed, most of these first landscapes serve as a background for his portraits. Which shows the stylistic variety with which he approached his subject: as his was a project for documenting the popular characters from the Rif, he adopted very different formal solutions according to each case (from extreme close-ups to figures placed against a neutral background or landscapes full on characters that can only be seen in the distance). In any case, it is interesting to note how, if, as one has seen, this formal variety distinguishes Ortiz Echagüe from the documentary style in its most purist sense, on the other hand it connects with a whole tradition existing in the north of Africa. To quote just one case, one may recall the work of Rudolf Lehnert and Franz Landrock, who had a photographic studio in Tunis working since 1904. There they produced a large quantity of photographs of popular figures, landscapes and urban views. In their pictures there is a linking of a style that is in a certain manner pictorialist, based on the staging of a city and the study of compositions and lighting, with a certain documentary interest, as they always worked on local places and people. At the same time, their purpose was openly commercial, as their photographs were widely distributed, particularly in the postcard format. Beyond Ethnography Ortiz Echagüe’s Rif series was connected to the photography of people that was usual in studios like that of Lehnert and Landrock. He was also interested in local characters, and he portrayed them in the context of the architectures and landscapes of the area. And he also took posed portraits, although he never used studio photography. Ortiz Echagüe’s work was fundamentally shown in exhibitions and publications of artistic photography, but at the time – just as had happened with the pictures from the air balloons of Guadalajara – they were also published in the postcard format, possibly with a commercial purpose, in two series of twenty pictures published by Hauser and Menet in 1912.


In this sense, Ortiz Echagüe’s project is not an isolated initiative, but one which is a part of the tradition of European photographers who worked in the north of Africa. At the same time, his purpose was more ambitious. His commercial interest was only sporadic, while Lehnert and Landrock kept their studio open until 1930. In the case of Ortiz Echagüe one can see how he tried to take this type of photography to an extreme that was difficult to find in the commercial studios of his time. Ortiz Echagüe always put the emphasis on the documentary character of his work, and in this sense he was opposed to studio photography with furnishing. At the same time, his work came from a careful formal treatment. In order to show exactly how he dealt with these problems, one may recall another contemporary body of work here: the photographs of North American Indians taken by Gertrude Käsebier in the first decades of the XX century. The most famous among these pictures, The Red Man, was published in the first issue of Camera Work, in January 1903. The photograph showed the face of an Indian in extreme close-up. The monumental character of this figure could doubtless be related to the need for simplification and clarity that Camera Craft demanded, and which had also been seen in the work of Ortiz Echagüe. However, it is clear that Käsebier’s work was not reportage in the strict sense of the word: the Indians that one could see in her photographs were in fact members of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show during a performance in Brooklyn. So Käsebier’s pictures were studio photographs taken in New York City. That means, exactly that which Ortiz Echagüe insistently refused to do. Despite this difference in approach, one can also find striking similarities between The Red Man by Käsebier and some of the portraits of Rif women taken by Ortiz Echagüe. Käsebier’s photograph was extremely simple. The figure filled the whole space of the shot, so that the image was practically flat: it just highlighted a fragment of the face that was looking directly at the spectator. The same thing took place in some photographs by Ortiz Echagüe, in which the figure occupied the whole foreground, so that the background practically disappeared

P. Dubreuil. Elephantasie (left) and José Ortiz Echagüe, Hauliers (right), in Photograms of the Year 1910, London, Georges Routledge & Sons, [1911]


and everything was reduced to a set of lines, among which one could hardly make out some traces of the figures – the arms and a small fragment of the face – as the only elements that bring the image out of a state of abstraction. A series of several different photographs that repeat this same scheme is conserved, with variants that go from an extreme abstraction to more realistic compositions, in which the image maintains a certain perspective. The whole of this approach refers directly to the fin-de-siècle aesthetics. Other photographers, like Alvin Langdon Coburn, had taken extremely flat photographs that harked back to the style of Japanese prints. But this is not the only possible reference. In the same issue of Camera Work in which se Käsebier’s commented works were published, the painting of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes was proposed as a model (being an author who would probably be known to Ortiz Echagüe through his brother Antonio, who was a painter and on one occasion wrote about him as a model for artistic renewal). Puvis de Chavannes’s archaic-looking classicism, with his flat and decorative style, could be related to some extent to some of these flat portraits of Rif women. In any case, forgetting stylistic issues, one may highlight a trace that differentiates Ortiz Echagüe’s approach from that of Käsebier or other contemporaries of his: its serial character. The Red Man was presented in Camera Work as an isolated image, along with others dedicated to other subjects that had nothing to do with it. On the other hand, in the case of these images by Ortiz Echagüe, there is a series character made up of multiple images, which indicates that they should be understood within the set of his systematic research into the north of Africa. So in this manner the Rif Women can be understood less as individual portraits and more as types, which intend to reflect the Rif inhabitants’ way of being. On other occasions, his experimentation with the composition of the images led Ortiz Echagüe to the opposite extreme. This could be seen in two photographs that were presented with the same title, Hauliers, and must presumably be pictures of the workers in the Beni bu Ifrur mines, where Ortiz Echagüe spent the autumn of 1909. One of these photographs was published in Photograms of the Year 1910, next to another one entitled Elephantaisie, a work by P. Dubreuil, which showed one of the statues of elephants that at the time adorned the Trocadero gardens in Paris, with the Eiffel Tower in the background and slightly out of focus. The magazine proposed a comparison between the two photographs, which were of note due to their theatrical and dramatic composition. In the case of Ortiz Echagüe, the image showed several men pulling a rope in successive shots. What was interesting in this image was the depth of field, which reduced the bodies to such an abstraction that they were practically reduced to being a formal game. And indeed, when these images were published there was no reference to the place and circumstances in which they were taken. A composition like this makes one think of the extremely striking views that Rodchenko or Moholy-Nagy developed in the twenties. However, one ought to remember that, as has been extensively shown by Wolfgang Kemp (Foto-Essays zur Geschichte und


Theorie der Fotografie, 1978), the origin of these points of view characteristic to the avantgarde in fact go back to the pictorialist photography of the end of the XIX century, as well as to the work of painters such as Gustave Caillebotte and Edgar Degas. This is something that many people were aware of in the photographic circles of the early part of the century. Sadakichi Hartmann, for example, recalled this explicitly in his article “On the Possibility of New Laws of Composition”, published in the April 1910 issue of Camera Work. This text, which referred back to impressionism as the origin of this type of framing, distinguished between a type of composition based on imagination, true to the Old Masters of painting, and another based on composition by eye more suited to photography. The latter, obviously, should be much more agile and mobile than the traditional pictorial composition. And images like the Hauliers by Ortiz Echagüe seem to respond to this conception. Beyond Photography Photography of African types shows an Ortiz Echagüe who is still young and devoted to experimenting with compositions and textures. His project to portray local Rif types started from an intention to use all formal resources possible. “I tried,” he stated, “to give my works the greatest variety possible in relation to their composition, in order to avoid incurring into an excess of monotony”. Cases have already been mentioned in which clear diagonals or extreme close-ups were used, which made the images become practically flat. In other cases, retouching the image was used in such a direct manner that this intervention can been seen to the naked eye. In some family photographs taken before 1909, Ortiz Echagüe had tried out scratching directly on the image, so that, in eliminating a part of the pigment, the figure would stand out remarkably on the white background. This was another way of highlighting the flatness and the texture of the photograph, which thus stood out as an “object”. In a slightly more attenuated manner, this can be seen in many photographs from this period, which show slight scratchings that serve to highlight the lights in determined zones. Yet in other cases Ortiz applied it in an extreme manner. There is, for example, the portrait of a boy with his face turned and a smiling expression, against a background that is practically white due to the photographer’s intervention, with him having scraped the image until he obtained this effect. In this way the contrast between the boy’s spontaneity and the abstraction of the background was accentuated. Something similar can be said about another image in which one sees a man sitting down, almost hidden by his hood, which contrasts over an intensely scratched background, so that one part of the image is flat and another shows the figure isolated from its background. This type of resources stresses the “objectural” character of photography, and indicate that, for Ortiz Echagüe, the image was not restricted to the negative taken in the camera, as might be the case in journalistic snapshots. For him, the printing was the other part of the construction of an image, and was as important as the first one. And in


this aspect he once again coincided with the photographic currents of his time. Robert de la Sizeranne highlighted this in his Questions Esthétiques Contemporaines (known in Spain through the translation published in La Fotografía during 1910), when he insisted that, for the photographer, the negative was as important as the final copy and the textures that one might obtain. This approach was also in line with many pictorialist works from those years. It is suffice to recall some famous images, also broadly retouched up, such as the Struggle by Robert Demachy, published in Camera Work in January 1904; or the Horse by Frank Eugene, which appeared in the April 1910 issue of the same magazine. When he was criticised for using these retouching methods that were not very “photographical”, Frank Eugene used to reply that his intervention was just restricted to eliminating what was not essential, but that the photographic “background” of his Horse was still intact. “It has often been said that the photograph was reminiscent of an etching. But it was not intended”, he assured Photo-Spiegel in 1927. It was true that he had eliminated the least interesting aspects of the image by scratching it with a knife, but – he insisted – “neither the light, nor the shadows, nor the form and line of the animal’s body”. For him, intervention on the background was a way of highlighting what was essential, which was only justified if it respected the photographic character of the figure. It is not necessary to stress the similarity of this approach with that of Ortiz Echagüe, who if he insistently refused to have his photography qualified as pictorialist, it was precisely for this reason. “In my works I have always wanted,” he always said, “not leaving any trace of manual intervention, as, if they often require long work of retouching and refinement, this should be carried out with all respect for the photographic background”. In his case this type of experiments formed an important part of his process of training as a youth, and they also intended to conserve his photographic “background”. Something similar can be seen in the different versions of his Moras de Tetuán [Moorish Women of Tetouan]. Due to the geographical reference, this photography

Tetouan Moorish Girls 2, c. 1912


Untitled, c. 1910

should have been taken on the last trip by Ortiz Echagüe to Morocco, in 1914, as Tetouan was not occupied by the Spanish until early 1913, after the setting up of the Protectorate. In any case, this image is interesting in relation to its author’s way of working. This is a double portrait (a model that refers back to previous works, like Viento y sol [Wind and Sun], from 1905), that shows two young Rif women who are turning their smiling faces to the photographer against a background of mountains. At least five versions of this image have been conserved. According to the cases, the lights vary, but also other elements that might be less essential, such as the mountain structure of the background itself. In one of the versions of the photograph the complete background is scratched, so that it respects the sky and the mountains, at the same time as very clearly highlighting the constructed nature of the image. In the sky, the scratching marks out a diagonal line, so that it evokes the clouds that the photograph does not show, while in the mountainous area the lines are horizontal. Against this background, as is the case in the other photographs of this type, the figures stand out more in their realism and in their volume. The Ruins of War From what has been said up to know, one may see that Ortiz Echagüe’s work in Africa is very far from being uniform. A good part of his photographs from these years are portraits, but in many cases they are combined with landscapes or urban scenes, and in others they show a process of formal experimentation that grant them great variety. From his images, one can deduce a somewhat idealised view of the Rif, far from the events of war that were taking place there. And although this is largely correct, it could be qualified somehow. In order to do so, one can remember that – as has already been shown – Ortiz Echagüe’s Rif photographs were published in their own time, to 1912, in the format of postcards. And unlike what was the case in the photographs presented in an artistic context, several images from this series had a title that directly alluded to a situation of

Untitled, c. 1910

Untitled, c. 1910. Published in postcard as “On the ruins of war”


war: one of them showed a little boy, who seems to be the same child as in Fuente mora [Moorish Fountain], with his father in the middle of some semi-destroyed buildings, and with a rifle left on the ground. The title that the postcard gave this image was somewhat explicit: En las ruinas de la guerra [Among the Ruins of war]. And the same thing was true with another one in which one could see a little boy in his mother’s arms, while his father aimed with his rifle. This is a posed image, which was given a melodramatic title: Sin hogar [Homeless]. In other cases, it was a question of more generic indications, like in the portrait entitled Moro del Rogui [Rogui Moor]. For the public of the time this must have been a clear allusion: El Rogui was one of the main opponents of the Sultan of Morocco, Abd-el-Aziz, and had considerable influence in some zones of the north of the Rif. Although he acted outside the law (and in fact his nickname means “the pretender”), the Spanish military authorities counted on him as one of their supports in the area. So that the connection between the character portrayed and El Rogui supposes an indirect indication as to Ortiz Echagüe’s position in the Rif: those he portrays are Spanish collaborators who are fighting against the Rif tribes. It is not possible to know whether it was Ortiz Echagüe himself who gave these titles to the photographs, or whether – as seems more probable – the publishing house did so independently. In any case, the photographer’s ambiguous position is once again confirmed here, as he is at the same time a member of the colonial army and a portrayer of the local life. These photographs, published as postcards, tried to give an idea of the characters and landscapes of the Rif at a time when the conflict was current news in the agitated Spanish public opinion. The allusions to war, although they are scant, indicate that it was something like this. These images should be seen in relation to the enormous quantity of photographs of the Rif conflict that arrived every week to the Spanish public. Photojournalists like José Campúa, who worked for Nuevo Mundo, or Alfonso Sánchez García in El Heraldo de Madrid, periodically sent photographs to Spain. So that the photographs shown in

Untitled, c. 1910 Street in Fez 2, c. 1910


the press were not far removed from the situation of public opinion in relation to the Rif conflict. Without going any further, Campúa’s photograph that showed the dead at the Barranco del Lobo was reproduced in large size on a double-page spread in Nuevo Mundo at the beginning of October 1909, when the area was recovered by the Spanish. However, the difference between the images that the newspapers published and those taken by Ortiz Echagüe is evident. In the press, the images would have a link to immediate news, and ought to have a certain information character. Only on few occasions would they publish images of Rif types, somewhat similar to those that Ortiz Echagüe was taking. In his case, when his images alluded to the war it was to represent generic situations, like those that showed the ruins of war or the homeless families. But this was a generic misfortune, not connected to any concrete event. Street Photographs In order to take this type of photographs, Ortiz Echagüe certainly had to turn to posed pictures, which for him was a legitimate option in the composition of an image. In a text dating from 1962 he explained that for him there were two methods of taking a negative: either “that of conscientiously composing a scene, that of adequately choosing a landscape, or rather the more difficult one, that of taking advantage of a fleeting instant, a decisive moment”. Considering the date when this was written, one should suppose that by the “decisive moment” Ortiz Echagüe was alluding to the famous formula made popular by the English translation of Cartier-Bresson’s book published in 1952: The Decisive Moment. Something similar took place with some of the photographs that were published in postcard format, like the one entitled Zoco de Yemaa de Mazuza [Yemaa de Mazuza Souk] or Detalle de un zoco [Detail of a Souk], which showed large crowds, and in the case of the second one, in the centre, a character who stares directly at the camera. In other cases, Ortiz Echagüe took views of the alleys of Moroccan cities. Many of these images had a mysterious air. In one of them, for example, one can see several arches, and in the centre a man running to the background. In another one the advancing group is made up of women wearing hoods, who hide themselves completely from the spectator, who thus has no elements to interpret the image or to establish a psychological contact with those portrayed. These images show an Ortiz Echagüe given to traversing the Moroccan cities and recording, away from any staging, ambiguous moments in which nothing seems to be happening, and which for this reason seem disturbing for the spectator. One of the photographs most diffused by Ortiz Echagüe was El Santón [The Holy Man], which shows a small bent-over character walking down a dark road. The photographer himself indicated that the figure is going towards the mosque. An image like this must have had clear connotations for the public of the time. In his already mentioned España en el Rif, Ruiz Albéniz recalled that the Rif revolts were often produced “at the request of a holy man”. And the press regularly confirmed this. “The


Rif holy men,” stated the magazine Nuevo Mundo in September 1909, “who are playing such an important role in the current war, are the most ardent propagators of Moroccan fanaticism, the guardians of dogmatic pragmatism as they understand it in their hatred for Christian progress, the most malicious enemies of everything European …” It would be difficult to deduce all this when contemplating the small figure in the photograph. Nevertheless, the image had a mysterious and ambiguous air that does allow one to sense something of the incomprehension of the Europeans faced with a way of life that was completely strange to them. Other carbons have remained, which Ortiz Echagüe did not display so much in salons and photography magazines, but which clearly illustrate this type of composition that connects with some of the currents of international contemporary photography. Among them one could highlight the portrait of an Arab type, captured in a strange gesture, who is looking to one side gazing into the distance and with his mouth open. This part of his work is perhaps that which removes him most from the archaic view of authors like Curtis. The photograph, due to its composition and ambiguous character, openly contrasts with other African images, characterized by a pleasant typicalism and the clearly studied classic compositions. In a certain manner this recalls the instant aesthetic of candid photography (like in the candid portraits that Strand took in the parks of Manhattan a short time later). Tipos y Trajes of Spain Ortiz Echagüe returned to Spain definitively in 1915. In the following years he remained connected to the army, where he carried out a somewhat hazardous aeronautical activity. In June 1916 he had a serious balloon accident, and in April of the following year an airplane accident. This provoked a certain personal crisis, as he himself states: “My wife and my family, on seeing me suffer two serious accidents in such a short time, were not happy about my future”. This was so much the case that they managed to get him a position in the Construcciones Electromecánicas de Córdoba, which sent him to carry out some practice at Schneider, in France, where he lived until 1918. In this way his dedication went from the army to the aeronautical industry, to which he will be fully devoted from 1923 on, when he founded his own company: Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA. His military record refers to him as “extraordinarily retired”, at the head of his own company. At the same time he continued his photographic activity. His major project from then on was to make a systematic portrait of the popular Spanish types, similar to what he had done in the Rif. He himself pointed out how his project to systematically photograph the popular costumes of Spain had started approximately from 1910 on, still during the Rif war. He continued on this task until the middle of the thirties, when he considered that it would be difficult for the project to carry on due to the progressive disappearance of these traditions under the effects of modernity. The tipos y trajes series was published for the first time in Berlin, in 1929, as Spanische Köpfe (literally Spanish Heads, a title that refers back to the tradition of the


portraits of typologies, which would have one of its most interesting exponents in the photobook by Helmar Lerski, Köpfe des Alltags, from 1931). In the following year Espasa-Calpe published the Spanish translation of the book Tipos y trajes de España [Types and Costumes of Spain], which kept on being increased until it reached twelve editions in 1971. The tipos y trajes project is the first showing of Ortiz Echagüe’s mature work. In it one can appreciate the tension between the large carbon copies, which are in principle artistic in nature, on the one hand, and on the other hand the systematic and documentary character that stood out in its publication as a book. This is where one can more clearly observe the parallel with Curtis’s project, which if it has anything in favour of its documentary reading, it is precisely the fact that his images did not circulate in artistic environments but was instead centred on the publication of the above-quoted The North American Indian, his monumental twenty-volume work that appeared between 1907 and 1930. There his photographs were printed on a photogravure similar to that of Camera Work, but were also accompanied by a long text that described each of the tribes, with their customs and their mythology. That is, that despite using the stylistic resources of pictorialism, its reading should be carried out not from the point of view of pure art, but that of ethnographic documentation, in connection with the texts that describe the way of life and the culture of the peoples portrayed. All of this also took place in tipos y trajes, which was also a project for the systematic registering in which the photographs should be seen in the framework of a series, highlighting their value as documents, at the same time as using a range of formal and thematic resources that was much more flexible than the documentary style in its most radical aspect. Tipos y Trajes included, from its first editions, many of the photographs by Ortiz Echagüe taken before 1909. And in doing so it changed its original meaning. A good example of this is the image that Graphos Ilustrado called, in 1906, La vida del labrador [The Life of the Farmer]. Then, has already been pointed out, the image was published in the form of a triptych, so that what stood out was a narrative-allegorical reading, suited to a fin-de-siècle aesthetic. In Spanische Köpfe, however, this image appeared with a different title, Ruda labor [Harsh Work]. In this new context, the image appeared isolated from the triptych of which it had previously been a part, and what stood out was its documentary reading: it was an image of a farmer from Alava, who – according to the commentary in the book “works the stubble dried by the burning summer”. The case of Harsh Work shows how the inclusion of these early works in the series tipos y trajes directly supposed a reinterpretation of the meaning that they could have at the beginning. After his return from Africa many elements he used in his early years, such as the scratching and the extreme compositions, practically disappeared. Once the tipos y trajes project began his work became centred on the documentation of Spanish popular life. Ortiz Echagüe’s mature way of working was not defined by the


more pictorialist lines that he practised until 1915, and which he ended up discarding in his mature work, but by that which had been previously called “anthropological pictorialism”. In the light of this line of working – developed in the Rif – he reinterpreted his early work. This is how one can explain that he flatly rejected the classification as a pictorialist: his interest was not restricted to the artistic field, but to a particular mixture of technical archaism and a documentary aim to which he would remain faithful for the rest of his photographic career. The series tipos y trajes included, as one can see, some of the first of his photographs, although in a certain manner he had reinterpreted them according to his mature way of working. It is easy to think that this working method had in fact started in the Rif. There, Ortiz Echagüe began that characteristic method of working somewhere between artistic photography and ethnographic reportage, working on systematic series taken in situ, with local characters, at the same time as abandoning artistic stagings and allegories. The Rif photographs were at the origin of tipos y trajes. Tipos y Trajes of Spanish Africa When, years later, he recalled his stay in the Rif, Ortiz Echagüe used to highlight some of his better accepted photographs, such as Moro al viento [Moor in the Wind] or Fuente mora [Moorish Fountain], and which are also those with the most classical composition. These most classical carbons were widely diffused in exhibitions and photography annuals. Photograms of the Year 1914 published one of them, Dos amigos [Two Friends]. In 1915, Moro al Viento received the photography exhibition prize from the Madrid Fine Arts Circle. Fuente Mora was presented at the 1921 London Photography Salon and in Amiens in 1925. And the above-quoted Moro al viento, which was also presented at Amiens in 1925, was exhibited in the same year at the Société Française de Photographie. The series of Moroccan photographs, as one can see, was a part of what was sent to salons, just as were the other images taken in Spain. In this type of exhibitions

Fez 3, 1965 Untitled, c. 1910


the images were presented on their own, like single pieces that were valorised as the work of an author. And, as one can imagine, in this type of consignment the images with direct references to war were not included, but only the large compositions that he himself considered to be the most interesting of his works. Nevertheless, from early on it was established that the Rif series was in fact tightly associated to that of tipos y trajes. The first place where this could be clearly understood was at the anthological exhibition of his work that was organized by the Madrid Fine Arts Circle in 1933. This exhibition was dedicated to the Spanish version of the book in Espasa-Calpe. The catalogue that was published pointed out that the three hundred photographs presented “cover a period in which it was relatively easy to bring together the elements of costumes dying out”, something which was interesting from the moment that this way of living was “on the point of rapid extinction”. In this set, Morocco was considered to be an autonomous region, represented with over thirty photographs, just like the other Spanish provinces. Here one can see how, in one of the first major anthological exhibitions of his work, Ortiz Echagüe considered the Moroccan series in the context of tipos y trajes, even though neither the German edition not the Spanish edition of the book had included the African photographs. Later on, in the editions of Tipos y Trajes published between the middle of the forties and fifties, Morocco appeared again as an autonomous series directly called “Spanish Africa”. During these years, as one can imagine, these photographs took on very different connotations to those they had at the beginning of the century. The image of Morocco was widely exploited by Francoist propaganda. It is enough to recall, for example, the Moroccan work of Nicolás Muller, published in books such as Estampas Marroquíes [Moroccan Pictures] or Tánger por el Jalifa [Tangiers through the Jalifa] (both from 1944), and immediately spread on a massive scale in the graphic magazines of the regime such as Fotos. Something similar took place in the cinema, where Morocco became one of the most exploited subjects in the post-war propaganda, with films such as Romancero Marroquí (1939) by Carlos Velo at the head. Ortiz Echagüe, who saw his work as being outside politics, justified the inclusion of the Moroccan series outside of these circumstances. The explanation that he gave was purely historical: “The descendents of the Spanish Arabs took refuge in the north of Africa, particularly in Morocco, along with the expelled Jews”, he stated in a comment on the plates of the book. “And this,” he concluded, “no doubt left more influences in Spain that that which they took”. As for the Rif costumes, the text of Tipos y Trajes highlighted the men’s turbans and the grey jellabahs, which practically hid the arms of those who wore them, as one can see in Muchachos rifeños [Rif Boys]. And, in the female costumes, the wide straw hats, very similar to those worn in Robledo (Salamanca). Leaving the political connotations to one side, it is clear that in being included in the book of Tipos y Trajes the way of understanding these photographs was different.


In the first place, because it supposes that the images should be read in the context of a series that represented the different regions of Spain. The photographs were no longer isolated carbon copies, but part of a project that described popular Spanish costumes, which demanded a documentary reading of the images. It is enough to observe the selection of photographs which, with variants, was published in the several different editions of Tipos y Trajes during the forties and fifties to verify this. None of the most experimental photographs became a part of the series. Neither the scratched photographs nor the extreme close-up ones were published. The images that became a part of the series were the large portraits that could have some ethnographic interest: figures like Moro al viento, Fuente mora, several different portraits of popular types, or typical scenes like the Peluquería rifeña. That is to say, that, once again, what survived was the “anthropological pictorialism”. Another fact may stress this reading of the African section of Tipos y Trajes. It was previously mentioned that, above all when being published in a postcard format, Ortiz Echagüe’s North African images had a certain up-to-date character. The images that, in the postcard format, were called Sin hogar or En las ruinas de la guerra are the most characteristic cases. However, when one goes from the postcard published during the Rif conflict to the African section of Tipos y Trajes, one can see the change very easily. The photograph that was called Sin hogar [Homeless] during the Rif conflict, has been turned into Familia rifeña [Rif Family] in the ninth edition of Tipos y Trajes (1953); a change that sought to neutralize the implications of the image and underline the typical nature of what it was showing. The other photograph, En las ruinas de la guerra, had less ethnographic interest, and simply was not published in any of the editions of the book. El Moro del Rogui became a generic Rifeño [Rif Man], and the Muchachas de Tetuán [Girls from Tetouan] became entitled Rifeñas en traje de fiesta, [Rif Girls in Party Dress], and were only published in the most purely “photographic” versions, without the scratching and retouching that dominated in the other copies. That means that what was of interest in these photographs was what there could be of the documentary aspect rather than formal experimentation. Ortiz Echagüe could devote himself to these explorations in his first stay in Morocco, but in the fifties they had moved down to the background. In this way he was forming a “canon” of his own work, in which many of his youthful experiments were discarded. The Return to Morocco The link between the Rif photographs and the series tipos y trajes stopped making political sense in 1956. That year the recognition of the independence of Morocco put an end to the protectorate that had started in 1912. From then on it made no sense to talk of “Spanish Africa”. That same year Ortiz Echagüe published his last book, España. Castillos y alcázares [Spain. Castles and Fortresses]. And it was precisely then, on concluding his tetralogy of books about Spain, when he started to plan to again take


up his series of African photographs, with the intention of publishing a fifth volume with the Moroccan images. With this aim, Ortiz Echagüe made three trips to Morocco between 1964 and 1966, accompanied by another aviator, General Gallarza. This was proof of his great vitality, as when he returned to Morocco he was 78 years old. The first trip, although it was stimulating, was not at all satisfactory. This is what he indicated in a letter to Eduardo Ibáñez Martín in May of the same year: “On my trip […], badly prepare don my part and coinciding with some festivities in which all the buildings were […] closed, and everything shut down, I could do some things, but much less than I wanted to”. Nevertheless”, he continued, “the country interested me a great deal on seeing its possibilities, much greater than I imagined”. In 1966 Ortiz Echagüe was still working in this direction. In a letter to the Ambassador of Spain in Rabat, Eduardo Ibáñez, he pointed out that he still had “the idea to see if I can bring together enough material to publish a book about Morocco, naturally in French and Spanish, but to do so I still need to make one more trip” (which he indeed made at the beginning of April). And over the following years he carried on working on this project. Two years later he wrote to Marguerite Portier to ask for books about Algeria, thinking about the possibility to make a trip there. He finally rejected the idea, on considering that Morocco was a more interesting place. However, although in his correspondence he insists on this project for at least until 1968, he never got to publish the book of photographs on the north of Africa. Despite everything, these trips allowed Ortiz Echagüe to carry out a new series of photographs of these places, which would be the last ones of his career as a photographer. The Moroccan photographs of this second phase are very different to those he took in the second decade of the XX century. His images are still technically identical: large scale carbons, on drawing paper that he then presented at salons and photography magazines. Yet in them one could sense the experience of his

View of Fez. Insert Fez 4, 1965


photography of landscapes and architecture, developed in the series of España. Pueblos y paisajes [Spain. Towns and Landscapes] (1939) and Castillos y alcázares [Castles and Fortresses] (1956). Indeed, in the photographs from the sixties the portrait is no longer predominant. He then centred much more intensely on the architecture and the landscapes, in many cases with urban elements. The abstraction of the images is much greater, and in this it coincides with that feeling of “unreality” and “dematerialization” of the scenarios that Lily Litvak – in El jardín de Aláh [Allah’s Garden] (1985) – perceived in fin-de-siècle orientalist culture. This can be seen in some photographs, like a view of Fez in which one sees a wide square beneath an intense background of clouds. The architecture intensely marked out a series of shadows, with a wide space in which there are several figures with their backs to us, none of which is looking at the spectator. The wideness of the space, along with the numerous faceless figures that populate it, takes on a surreal and strange air. This is an element that, more than in his first photographs, can be felt in the series of Pueblos y paisajes (as could be seen when one of them was included in the exhibition Huellas dalinianas, MNCARS, 2004). In other cases, Ortiz Echagüe’s images showed crowds wandering around unaware of the photographer, as had been the case in the photographs of Souks in his first stay in Morocco. And in some cases one could see, as took place in another of the views of Fez, a striking contrast between the crowd unaware of the photographer and a single character who goes directly towards him. This rather directly refers back to the aesthetic of the “decisive moment”, and indicates that these photographs are strictly snapshots. This does not mean that in this second phase Ortiz Echagüe had devoted himself to reportage in the sense of Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment”. That which he sought was a pre-modern reality that could no longer be found in Spain, where he had carried out his series of popular types. In this sense it is clear that he carried out an intense treatment of the image; that he tried to underline this reality. If one lingers on this observation, the abovementioned view of Fez itself shows a work of retouching up that tries to dissimulate the most modern elements, such as the traffic signs or the electric power lines. So that the image in itself sets out a certain contradiction: on the one hand the photograph is a snapshot taken by a foreigner; but on the other hand a work of selection and retouching has been applied that tries to underline the typical nature rather than the reality of the modernization of the country. Ortiz Echagüe himself recalled that on going to Morocco in the sixties he came across a country where “bicycles and people dressed in the European manner abound”; and that made it necessary to carefully prepare the shot in order to avoid those elements that were outside of his interests. His purpose was to represent an essential reality, outside of time, alien to modernity.


All of this allows one to sense what would have been Ortiz Echagüe’s book about Morocco: a documentary work centred not on the reality of the time, but on the traditional, and to a certain extent timeless, ways of life which were condemned to rapidly disappear. From the warlike allusions of his first Rif photographs, the reference to historical up-to-dateness practically disappeared from his work. In this aspect his attitude was very different from those of his contemporaries. For example, that of Paul Strand, who also planned to publish a photo book about Morocco. Strand travelled to Morocco in 1962, so that his project and that of Ortiz Echagüe are almost contemporary. There he took numerous photographs of landscapes, farmland, cities and markets. In some cases his extreme close-ups might remind one of Ortiz Echagüe’s work. However, their approaches could not be more different. Although he did not get to publish his book about Morocco, his works on other African countries (Living Egypt, 1969, or Ghana: an African Portrait, 1976), show that Strand was interested in the complete reality of the country: its tradition and landscapes, but also its industry and its modern condition, and above all its people. The most famous photograph that Ortiz Echagüe took during this last series of visits to the north of Africa, Siroco en el Sahara [Sirocco in the Sahara] (1964), is a confirmation of his intent. The image was taken in the North Sahara, in an extensive area of dunes. He himself wrote of taking the photograph: “I had four Moors I met nearby pose. They went by the same zone six times and only one was able to be used because of its adequate composition”. That is, that the procedure was usual in his portraits of popular figures: this was a posed image, obtained after negotiation with those being portrayed. The resulting image, however, had no documentary interest in the same sense as his first photographs of Rif characters. In this case they were three characters portrayed at a certain distance against a background of clouds and sand, which, with the texture of the photographic paper, would take on a practically abstract appearance. They space they were crossing looked totally unreal. The image was extremely widely shown over the following years. It was presented, among other places, at the London Salon in 1964 and at the anthological exhibition of his work that took place in Paris that same year. Two years later it was exhibited at the Moscow Interpress-Photo. He himself happily recalled that his was the only image in the exhibition that was reproduced in the newspaper Pravda, on the 12th of July 1966. This image was Ortiz Echagüe’s last great success as a photographer.


Place in the South Atlas c. 1910

From the Air 1914

Aerial View 1910

Untitled c. 1910

In the South Atlas c. 1910

Souk in the Rif c. 1910

Fez 1910

Gate in Fez 1910

Tetouan 1909-1915

Late Afternoon in Tetouan 1910

Street in Fez 1 c. 1910

The Holy Man 1914

Untitled c. 1910

Rif Moorish Women 1912

Rif Moorish Women 1 1914

Rif Moorish Woman 1 1910

Fez Moorish Woman 3 (Fรกtima) c. 1912

North of Africa  
North of Africa  

North of Africa