A photographer's windows onto a lost world

By Christina Sanoudou

His photographs depict intellectuals and celebrities, princes and boxers, pageant queens and soldiers of the Democratic Army, engines and airplanes from the dawn of the 20th century, the assassinations of former prime ministers Jose Canalejas and Eduardo Dato, as well as scenes of everyday life both before and during the Spanish Civil War.

The work of Luis Ramon Marin serves as a window onto a lost world. In some images, the Spanish photographer puts himself in front of lens, exhibiting his strength or attempting dangerous feats that reveal a humorous and adventurous personality. In others, he embellishes the faithful depiction of reality with subtle “brushstrokes” that seem to transform paper into canvas, giving the photographs a painterly feel.

Organized by the Cervantes Institute and the Pablo Iglesias Foundation, the traveling exhibition “Marin” comprises 60 images selected from over 18,000 negatives and slides that compose his sizable archive. It is currently on display at the Athens branch of the Cervantes Institute through December 21.

At the age of 24, Marin (b. 1884) gave up a job in the civil service to work as a photojournalist. Over the course of his 30-year career in this field, he published over a thousand photographs a year in the Spanish daily Informaciones as well as local magazines. Willing to turn his lens on any subject, he photographed the royal family – becoming their official press correspondent – with an eye on the aesthetic result and detail. He gained access to their private moments as as well as others members of the aristocracy. He took photographs of politicians, artists, athletes and common people. At the start of the civil war, his attention turned to refugees, destroyed cities and everyday life in besieged Madrid.

However, the work he did during the Spanish Civil War landed his name and work on a black list after the rise of Francisco Franco in 1939. His work survives today after his death in 1940 thanks to the efforts of his wife and daughter to salvage his precious archive from the authorities by hiding it inside a wall in their house. Later, once democracy was restored in Spain, Marin's daughter, Lucia, bequethed the collection to the Iglesias Foundation.

Today, Marin is hailed as the pioneer of photojournalism, and “Marin” has already traveled to Berlin, Bucharest, Dublin and other cities.

The Athens show runs through December 21, and opening hours are Mondays to Fridays 10 a.m. - 1.30 p.m. & 4-8 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. - 1.30 p.m. The exhibition is closed on Sundays and on December 6. Admission is free of charge.

Cervantes Institute, 23 Mitropoleos, Monastiraki, Athens, tel 210.363.4117.