Cristina García Rodero once again reveals her “Hidden Spain” at the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid


Fifty years have passed since an artistic creation scholarship, awarded by the Juan March Foundation, changed the life of photographer Cristina García Rodero. Today she is one of the most recognized professionals in the sector, inside and outside our country—National Photography Award in 1996, Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts in 2005, Gold Medal for Merit in Work in 2014, honorary doctorate. cause by the University of Castilla-La Mancha in 2018 and the first Spaniard to be part of the prestigious Magnum Agency, among many other distinctions—but then she was only a 23-year-old young woman, without much experience but, yes, with the tenacity and the courage necessary to make a dream come true.

With the 180,000 pesetas from the scholarship, García Rodero (Puertollano, 1949) bought new photography equipment, his first Pentax, and toured the most remote towns in Spain for a year with the aim of documenting—and thereby preserving— their festivals, ceremonies, rites, traditions and their ways of life. “I propose to carry out an anthological work on the customs of Spain, both in its openness and progress, and in its concealment and tradition. To do this, I will use the most current and representative medium of my time: photographic expression,” García Rodero explained in the scholarship application report.

As a result of this work, which continued for several years, the series of photographs collected in hidden Spain (1989), a book that established the face and spirit of a very special moment in the country and that became a fundamental milestone in the history of photography in Spain and a source of inspiration for photographers, artists and photography lovers. A new revised edition of this cult book (the original is today a difficult-to-find collector's item) has just gone on sale, edited by the artist herself.

That dream of youth continues to materialize today because Cristina García Rodero has never finished her work and has continued traveling to those places that she dedicated herself to documenting. In addition to the aforementioned reissue of that inspiring book, in 2023 it was released Cristina García Rodero. The hidden look, a documentary directed by Carlota Nelson and produced by Wanda Films, in which the photographer tours places and parties, while reviewing her own life and experiences. To complete her tribute, a large exhibition has just opened its doors at the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid. It shows the complete series of hidden Spain: 152 black and white photographs taken before 1989, printed in large format in the laboratory of Juan Manuel Castro Prieto, with whom the photographer has been working for years.

During the presentation of the exhibition, of which García Rodero is the protagonist but in which she also acts as curator (“I have become curator because I don't feel like having my photos touched and given a different meaning than the one I want.” “), the photographer recalled how the goal of her project was always to “enter the bowels of Spain and make it known. “She was fed up with the Spain that was shown by the State, an image facing foreigners.” For her it was more important to record other customs and festivities that were “infinitely more interesting” and, above all, much more unknown. For years she traveled thousands of kilometers in a constant search for authentic moments and characters. Theirs are images that record life in an unmistakable way, the bond that human beings maintain on the border between the spiritual and the earthly, along with the rites and traditions that have accompanied us for centuries.

Cristina García Rodero.  The powers of the soul, 1976. Puente Genil
Cristina Garcia Rodero.  In the eras, 1988. Escober
Cristina Garcia Rodero.  The curious and Saint Martha, 1986. Fontefría, Castrelo do Val / The confession, 1980. Saavedra Begonte
Cristina Garcia Rodero.  The offered.  Pilgrimage of Santa María de Ribaterme, 1977. As Neves
Visitor in front of the work The Chained Demon, 1981. Murcia
Cristina García Rodero.  September, 1988. ESCOBER

The outstanding documentary and ethnological value of the project is combined with the aesthetic quality of its photography, which makes it more than a simple visual record. “I have tried to photograph the mysterious, true and magical soul of popular Spain in all its passion, love, humor, tenderness, rage, pain, in all its truth; and the fullest and most intense moments of the lives of these characters, as simple as they are irresistible, with all their inner strength,” García Rodero has described.

After passing through the Círculo de Bellas Artes, “Cristina García Rodero. Hidden Spain” will travel to several Spanish venues such as the La Malagueta Cultural Center of the Provincial Council of Malaga, the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art in Cuenca and the Juan March Foundation Museum in Palma or the IVAM Center Julio González, all of them institutions that have collaborated in the project. The organizers do not rule out that after its tour in Spain the project could also be exhibited in an institution outside our borders.

“Cristina García Rodero. “Hidden Spain”
C/ Alcalá 42
From May 17 to August 18, 2024

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