by José Ortiz-Echagüe (1896-1980)

11 April 2015

José Ortiz-Echagüe is an artist from a different era, the kind you don’t find anymore.
Air pioneer, decorated war pilot, successful industrialist, his photography was a hobby he accomplished with as much determination and perfectionism as everything else in his life.
From the first coating of emulsion (he employed four coats), to the preparation of the paper, to the last finishing touches on the image, he did everything himself without help of any kind, taking sometimes a whole day to produce only one print. And because he literally used water color paint on drawing paper, instead of silver salts on bromide prints, his carbon method prints do look like paintings sometimes.

Ironically, José Ortiz-Echagüe did not consider himself a “pictorialist” photographer but a “documentary” one.
Despite the obvious esthetic quality of his photographs, his prime motivation was to record a disappearing traditional life style in his native Spain and colonies, with its people, peasants, shepherds, monks, with their traditional costumes, but also its castles and forteresses of the past. His “profound dislike of all forms of intervention in photography which seek to imitate the art of painting”, also tells his interest was elsewhere.
However, looking at them today, his images convey such a sophisticated sense of esthetics, it is difficult to categorize them as only documentary.
To me, they simply feel biblical, populated with people and places that belong to a fictional and mystical past.