/ 14 October 2019

Week of the Festival: Madrid, Spain

‘The Photobook is a Work of Art’

Fiebre Photobook is the only festival specialised in photobooks in Spain, as described by its directors, Miren Pastor and Olmo González.

They have been photographers for more than a decade, but their passion for this artistic discipline has also led them to cultural management. In 2013, Miren Pastor (born in Pamplona, ​​1985) and Olmo González (born in Madrid, 1981) decided to create Fiebre Photobook, the first and still the only festival specialised in photography books in Spain. It is held annually in Madrid and Barcelona. ‘There was a need for a festival of this kind’, says Pastor.

Although the origins of the photobook date back to the 19th century with Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, by Anna Atkins, this photographic medium has been gaining and losing popularity since then. In Spain, it began to resurface towards 2010, after a decade eclipsed by digitalisation and exhibition catalogues. ‘A catalogue is not the same as a photobook, although there are very good catalogues, too. The photobook is a work of art in itself in which, with the help of the images, a story is told’, explains González.

‘The lack of funding to produce exhibitions led many photographers to produce their own photobooks and thus be able to show their projects in some way’, says Pastor. Photography books flourished again in Spain with the enthusiasm of a new generation of photographers. ‘You could breathe that positive energy, but there was no way to channel that energy in some way’, Gonzalez recalls. Since then, both have worked hard to get Fiebre Photobook forward, self-financing.

The next edition of the festival, which will be held in Madrid from October 25 to 27 at Sala el Águila, will be the first to receive institutional financing. ‘For the first time we are better off economically and that is because we have financial resources: We are able to cover the expenses of international participants who came to the festival. They used to come just for the sake of it’, says González.

Pastor and González also agree on matters of taste, both have just bought the photobook Welcome to the Barrio, the latest project by photographer Oriol Miñarro. ‘There are books with which you connect more and, in general, you want to buy everything, although you can't. Other times, you value the effort of that author to take out his self-published photobook, and you don't give much importance to the project itself‘, Pastor explains. ‘That is one of the main objectives of Fiebre Photobook: Supporting projects that do not have such visibility’, she adds.

One of the star sections of this festival is Autopublicantes, for those who self-publish their photobooks. ‘In Fiebre Photobook we do not do any type of screening, all the projects that come to us have their place in the festival,’, says González. ‘They are not charged anything and, in this way, they can make visible and sell their works’, adds Pastor. This new edition will feature 40 ‘self-publishing’ entries.

Photobook continues to grow in popularity, both for the public and for photographers. ‘There are more and more projects in this format: In the festivals you can see that this never ends. We have seen so much that our level of demand increases, and it is more difficult for a book to really surprise you, but there are always new developments, new lines…’, Pastor explains.

Precisely, Fiebre Photobook has added to the panorama one of these new lines: Bookjockey sessions, a new and experimental format that shows photobooks as if it were a DJ session, creating stories and inviting the public to feel and enjoy them. ‘It's a way to reach new audiences. It has a playful, entertaining, diverse tone, is different and attractive, and it makes possible to understand how photobooks are read for someone without previous experience’, says Pastor.

In addition to workshops, exhibitions, viewings and these fun bookjockey sessions, the festival incorporates, in this edition, a section of professional meetings. ‘It arises from the need to professionalise the sector, because it is still very precarious in Spain. We see daily complaints on social networks. It is necessary to create a structure that puts all the parties in agreement: Curators, festivals, publishers, authors... That is why we propose this space, so that these problems and difficulties can be debated with the objective that one day some bases can be laid or a manual of good practices that improves the situation in the photography sector’, explains Pastor.

While this is achieved, the directors of Fiebre Photobook will continue to work in the growth of the festival and maybe take it to other parts of Spain. ‘Above all, we want to show that, with financing, things can be done much better. If we have managed to get here without support, we can´t imagine where we can get with it’, González concludes.

By Marta Villena, a journalist and photographer. She usually writes for EL PAÍS newspaper on culture and society issues. Previously, she worked as a correspondent in the United Kingdom for Onda Cero Radio. During his stay in the UK, she obtained a Master’s in International Journalism in Cardiff University (Wales), designated as the best journalism school by The Guardian newspaper. As a photographer, she is currently working on a project that explores how linguistic regulations make the LGTBI community invisible.

Edited by Sergio Fanjul