MARCO (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo) in Vigo, Pontevedra, Spain is hosting a temporary exhibition of the work of Galician photographer Virxilio Vieitez. Vieitez, who died in 2008, had stored a great amount of material that his family has just offered to scholars and institutions for public exhibition and study. Thanks to MARCO, it is now possible to see not only Vieitez’s classic works, but also a good number of previously unknown B&W, colour and vintage photographs. The selection was made by Italian curator Enrica Viganò.
The exhibition consists of 293 photographs, 261 B&W and 32 colour pictures, of which more than half have never been exhibited before. The display is completed with 157 vintage shots exhibited in showcases, the documentary “Virxilio Vieitez, más allá del oficio” (Virxilio Vieitez: beyond métier), directed by José Luis López Linares in 2005 and a room with a biographical display. A catalogue has been published by MARCO Vigo and Fundación Telefónica. In this catalogue, several experts analyze different aspects of Vieitez’s work.
The exhibition will be open in MARCO until April 24th. Afterwards, it will move to the rooms of Fundación Telefónica in Madrid and then on to other Spanish towns and cities.
Virxilio Vieitez’s is one of the most extraordinary lives in the history of Spanish photography. He was born in Soutelo de Montes, in the province of Pontevedra, in 1930 and he had different small jobs all around Galicia until he moved to the Costa Brava. There he met photographer Julio Pallí, who taught him how to shoot and lab techniques. Vieitez started to train himself in the art of portrait photography, taking pictures of tourists. At the end of the 50s his mother fell ill and Virxilio was forced to return home. He started a small studio and made his living from wedding photography and making portraits for identity cards. For those first photographs he used a 6×9 Kodak camera, but he would soon change it for a Retina and that he would change again for a Rollei.
Vieitez’s style has been described as having “strange aesthetics, with the human element taking the best part of the pictures. Human figures unadorned, plain simplicity, a premonition of that kind of humility bordering the void, anonimity and the void (…) Virxilio Vieitez aspired to be just a good professional in his small village. He had a distinctive and clean way of looking. He felt not the revelation of the Decisive Moment á la Cartier-Bresson; he felt something more physical, that precise moment in which one shoots the camera driven by feeling rather than by intuition, by a spasm rather than by mere chance.”
Vieitez occasionally shot colour, but he remained faithful to black and white photography. He worked non-stop for almost 40 years, driving his SEAT 1500 (which he bought so that he could take the brides to church) and riding his Guzzi motorbike around villages on end while looking for people to shoot. In the 80s he decided to retire and left his studio to his daughter Keta. He put his impressive negative collection in tin boxes and began a new life as discreet as his old life. However, his daughter could see that Vieitez’s photographs, despite their humility and simplicity, had “it”. Thanks to her efforts, her father’s work was finally acknowledged. The time came then for recognition, exhibitions and publishing, including the almost posthumous monographic volume in La Fábrica’s pocket collection Photobolsillo.