Photographs that capture the encounter between nature and engineering

Nature is a living organism. For those of us who dedicate ourselves to creative processes, it is not a fixed image that we have in front of us. On the contrary, it is a creative organism and a heritage that can nourish us in our daily lives. This is how María Santoyo, director of PhotoEspaña, described the meaning of the exhibition “Cuadernos de campo: Javier Vallhonrat” that opened this week.

The exhibition, whose photographs are the work of Javier Vallhonrat, 1995 National Photography Prize winner, is part of the PhotoEspaña 2024 festival, is located in Madrid's Campo del Moro gardens and starting in September at the Real Sitio de la Granja de San Ildefonso, the natural and technological context that includes Vallhonrat's work.

The artist is also the author of the audiovisual piece “Of streams, forests and torrents”, which is simultaneously exhibited in the Royal Collections Gallery.

The exhibition is part of the “Cuadernos de Campo” project, a joint initiative of PhotoEspaña, National Heritage and Acciona, a photographic tour “that will show three artistic visions of the natural wealth of our national heritage,” explained Ana de la Cueva, president of National Heritage at the opening ceremony.

The project will consist of three editions, each one dedicated to a theme that will be portrayed by internationally renowned artists. The three photographic series, in addition to their corresponding exhibitions, will be reflected in separate publications. The first will be presented next September, when the exhibition is already in La Granja.

A different look

The photographic tour follows the path of the mountain streams of the Sierra de Guadarrama to the canals that make up the original hydraulic system of the fountains in the royal palace gardens and that has continued to function since it was designed and built 300 years ago.

Vallhonrat explained that “the very location of the palace, at the foot of Peñalara, an emblematic mountain for those of us who like mountains, already links it with nature.” And the surprise that caused him “to leave behind the magnificent trees, French-style gardens and fountains, the image that I suppose many people share, to enter wild and untamed lands.” It is where the five streams run that provide water to the pond called El Mar, located in the upper part of the gardens, and from where the monumental fountains are regulated and supplied. «They are mountain streams, whose waters remain very pure, very preserved and respected. And very sweetly, – and that is what I have tried to reflect -, little by little they are channeled until in the end they feed those magnificent sources. That relationship of man, Vallhorant continued, with the natural resource there is expressed in a way that reconciles me a lot with the role that we can have, and that we have the responsibility to have, in our relationship with what we call nature, as if we were not also nature.

When addressing a project that tries to give value to the natural heritage that the National Heritage guards, María Santoyo recognized that “the first thing we think about is rather works of art and wonderful collections, not natural heritage. But, it is also a common heritage, of all of us and its preservation challenges us all. For this reason, she thought of Javier Vallhonrat, “for me the reference artist in the international arena in terms of his relationship with nature from visual creation.”

Javier Vallhonrat taking photos in the streams of the Guadarrama mountain range© Pablo Vallhonrat

a round triangle

Santoyo defined the alliance between PhotoEspaña, National Heritage and Acciona, as “a closed triangle like the best circle. The three of us are united by a project that, from the perspective

of art, encourages us to value our environment and its most precious assets. In this case and particularly the water.

Joaquín Mollinedo, director of Institutional Relations, Communication and Brand at Acciona, highlighted that, «precisely, this first exhibition of the “Field Notebooks” shows the value of engineering, intelligence and human ingenuity in management. of natural resources. And he recalled that Javier Vallhonrat was looking for the point where nature and human intelligence came together. “This intersection makes us reflect on our role as a company, which is only possible through the protection of the environment and the natural environment.” Hence his statement that “the three entities share the conviction of the close connection between art and the environment and that valuing cultural and natural heritage is the best way to preserve it.