‘Antigua'. The humanized eye of Pio Cabanillas

Third photographic work of the former minister spokesperson of the Spanish Government

 -   'Antigua'

It is his third photographic installment, and without a doubt the most risky and sentimental. After the landscape painting in America and a monumental memory of Syria erased by the Isis, the former director general of RTVE and spokesman minister has set his eyes on a town in Guatemala. Santiago de los Caballeros, founded in 1541, suffered earthquakes and abandonment and was renamed Antigua, the name chosen for this book of extreme black and white photography.

Avoiding at all times the records of the report, Cabanillas looks directly into the eyes of eternity, which transcends the historic faces of people given over to rites of life and death such as the Holy Week transplanted from Spain and lived intensely among the indigenous population. 

Here we are not "distracted" by the rite. The photographer, in a careful edition of short shots, offers us a lesson in human geography, grooves painted by time on their faces, open skies in their eyes, rictus of thoughts on their lips... everything so close that you can feel it. 


His first book, 'Gea', sought a formalism of framing, shots and contrasts. In her previous work on 'Syria', only the hand of man appeared as the creator of buildings for history. But his figure was absent. The once Roman ruins of Aleppo and other Syrian enclaves appeared haughty and lonely before the eyes of history. Perfect frames, direct lights gave them an exactly monumental air. But the photographer who saw it, who walked around it, who looked for the angle.... what he offered us now was a shroud. The image of that which was, the photo as a testimony of the time that has already fled. Barbarism took charge of liquidating those vestiges, of dismantling art and history into stone. Only photography has saved the vision of that world raised by men and women who created history.

Everything seems ancient, from another time, distant and distant in this delivery of photographs by Pío Cabanillas. A long journey into a history as old as creation, as far as time that does not go. The lens has stopped, absorbed, looking at some languid, sad, deep gazes that fill the photo with eyes. Those eyes look at you without looking at you, because their gaze is as powerful as that of the one who has seen everything, the mouth of the volcano and the blinking of the sky.


Now, however, in his project 'Antigua', Cabanillas practically dispenses with the rite or the result of human work. What he offers us are the living faces that populate this city that is subjected to the terror of nature, but which has known how to survive thanks to the passion of its people. Portraits in the foreground, portraits of communities united by effort. We smell the clouds of incense and feel the heat of the flame of the lamps that create an atmosphere conducive to understanding that these people are subjected to a rite of passion and death. The resurrection is now in their portraits for posterity, in this book of chiaroscuro where humanity is what truly stands out and is the clear protagonist. This is not another journey of geographical conquest like those made so far by this indefatigable nomad who is Pio Cabanillas; what he has gone in search of is the mestizo humanity of America united with Spain and he has drawn his essence from this Antigua, which is shown in this way, clear and raw, like that one word with a black background that makes up the austere cover of the book

Photos by Pío Cabanillas. 
Turner Editions. 
Spain-Mexico. 2020