The Catalan photographer has won PHotoESPANA’s Descubrimientos PHE 18 Award for his series Ha Aretz, a project reflecting on the evolution, or involution, of ancient populations
An international jury, comprised of Rein Desle, curator and editor at FoMu Photo Museum Antwerp; Andrea Holzherr, director of exhibitions and curator at Magnum Photos France; and Ana Morales, director of programmes at PHotoESPANA, have selected Roger Grasas as the winner of this year’s Descubrimientos (or ‘discoveries’) PHE 18 Award. They have commended Grasas’ “capacity to document a global issue from a personal perspective”, inviting him to exhibit his work at the next edition of the festival.
The Catalan photographer has won the award with his series Ha Aretz, an exploration of biblical sites. Created over seven years, in ancient locations across Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, the series recalls biblical landscapes, photographed in juxtaposition to contemporary conditions, such as globalisation, tourism, consumerism, and the aftermath of war.
Aiming to reflect on the possible evolution, or involution, of these ancestral regions, Grasas encourages the viewer to consider these sites in a postmodern world, where they serve as a backdrop for fast-food chains, the invasion of mass tourism, and changes in the landscape caused by technological developments. Our attention is directed to the often overlooked ancient cultures that permeate here, permitting a legacy that lingers, but has also been flawed.
Barcelona-based Roger Grasas is a photojournalist, with a background in photographing projects for NGOs. Beyond this, his travels have defined the themes of his work. And his photographs have been exhibited all over the world, including in the United States, Mexico and the Arab Emirates.
Grasas’ work has always been rooted in globalisation, and exploring the roles of technology and post-capitalism in a globalised world. His first long-term project, Min Turab, is part-documentary and partly his own personal vision, reflecting on changes in the landscape and society within oil monarchies in the Persian Gulf. This focus on the connection between place and history through the exploration of landscapes, is common throughout all of Grasas’ work, most clearly in this most recent series.
Receiving the Descubrimientos Award means Grasas will exhibit his work at PHotoESPANA next year, the 21st edition of the festival. Lauded as one of Europe’s biggest and best photography festivals, PHotoESPANA celebrates the medium in all its forms and themes. Taking place across the Spanish capital for almost three months each summer, the festival promises an eclectic mix of activities, and encompasses the work of over 500 artists.
PHotoESPANA exhibitions run across Madrid until 26 August, complemented by a wide-ranging programme of events, including talks, workshops, portfolio reviews and partnerships with cultural organisations from around the world. phe.es