Press Releases


Photographer Schommer captures the restoration works

6/10/06 The Vitoria City Council and the Santa María Foundation, with the sponsorship of EULEN, have published a book with 60 photographs.

Victoria-Gastiez, 16 November 2006. Prestigious photographer Alberto Schommer (1928) has rediscovered Vitoria-Gasteiz, the city of his birth, thanks to a photography project in which he captures the restoration work being carried out on the Santa María Cathedral. His images – these days he is immersed completely in field work – will be included in a luxurious publication produced in conjunction with Vitoria-Gasteiz Town Hall and the Santa María Cathedral Foundation, with sponsorship from Grupo EULEN, which is in charge of guided tours to the church in Vitoria.

The book will comprise around 60 photographs and will be available to the public at the beginning of next year, probably in January. This photographic project has brought Schommer back into contact with the monument that his father Alberto Schommer Koch also had occasion to photograph extensively, together with other aspects of daily life in Vitoria-Gasteiz and Álava, back in the nineteen sixties.

Alberto Schommer has watched photographic equipment develop throughout his career over 40 years, including the Polaroid and compact camera through to digital technology, which he considers “vital”. He describes himself as an “artistic photographer”. He is not sorry he turned down the tempting offer he received to become a fashion photographer for the celebrated Balenciaga in the nineteen fifties.

His series portraying the transition rocketed him to fame. “I realised I had enormous power in my hands, but I couldn´t work like Richard Avedon or Irving Penn, who lived in free countries… I had to do something that would be interpreted by some as criticism but as cryptic by others”. The most artistic dimension of Schommer´s fast and somewhat chameleonic work is yet to be discovered.

Schommer is known mainly for his portraits of contemporary Spanish personalities. Born in Vitoria in 1928, his father, Alberto Schommer Koch, was also a photographer, meaning his relationship with the camera began when he was still very young. He studied photography in the German city of Cologne and continued to study later on in Paris, after which he opened a studio in Madrid.

Between 1969 and 1973 he shot his famous psychological portraits, in which he concentrates the interest on reflecting the social roles of the characters he photographs. His evolution as a portrait photographer continued with the Descubrimientos and Máscaras series.

His creative work also touches on other fields, where light and materials take on a sculptural feel, such as the Civilizaciones y Cascografías series, and others where he penetrates aspects of Spanish culture and society, such as the La erotica del flamenco series.

His work has appeared in the press and in books, and he has been the subject of many exhibitions throughout the world. In 1978 he was invited by Japanese photographer Eikoh Hosoe to exhibit in Japan, and he has also shown his works at the Museo Espáñol de Arte Contemporáneo and the Centre for Creative Photography in Tucson. In 1996 he was made a member of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid.

Photographic record of the restoration
Photography is evidence of life and treasure of incalculable value for future generations. This is why the Santa María Cathedral Foundation started up a unique programme among its wide activities to popularise the cultural and tourism aspects of the project in 2001. The aim is to compile an archive of photographs that offers, from the personal view of their photographers, different views of the restoration plan until its completion.

The Santa María Cathedral Foundation began this photographic project in 2001 with Galician photographer Vari Caramés (El Ferrol, 1953), one of the most unique figures in Spanish contemporary photography, and his work “En la Catedral”. All the exhibitions tour different cities in Spain. More than 250,000 people saw the work of Caramés in Vitoria-Gasteiz (Palacio de Montehermosos), León (Cathedral), Seville (Cathedral) and Santiago de Compostela (Fonesca Room at the University of Santiago de Compostela).

The next photographer commissioned to capture the church restoration project in Vitoria was José Manuel Navia (Madrid, 1957), whose exhibition “Desde la Catedral” was on show at the Museo Artium. After visiting Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, Navia and Caramés had a joint exhibition at the Instituto Cervantes in Lisbon, as part of the Portuguese presentation of the Santa María Cathedral Restoration Project.