A Journey to Flamenco and Back
The 1960s were years of political turbulence and dramatic awakening for young people in Europe and America. Exciting new music was being created, reflecting and providing voice for the changing values of the times.
Artists were also making pilgrimages to other cultures in search of musical and spiritual resources to compliment or supplement their own. They ventured to India, Japan, North Africa, Cuba and South America. The world had become an open resource for those willing, capable and adventurous enough to find it. The Beatles were influenced by Indian ragas; the "Concierto de Aranjuez" inspired Miles Davis. Among these young pilgrims was a handful that went to Spain in search of the art and spirit of flamenco.
They arrived with energy and enthusiasm. A few also brought cameras and tape recorders, arriving not as professionals looking for material to appropriate or exploit, but because they loved flamenco.
Much of Spain under Franco's repressive dictatorship existed as an agrarian society, economically undeveloped and relatively affordable for more affluent world travelers, allowing students to spend months and, in some cases, years living among the flamencos, studying the music, hosting fiestas, paying and transporting artists to perform together in intimate, supportive and respectful surroundings. Due to the generosity and openness of the flamencos – many of whom were Gypsies – these students were accepted into the artists' social spheres and were invited to events otherwise closed to outsiders. They were not a political or social threat to the families and were supportive and respectful of the music. An anomaly in the fabric of daily life, they were a compliment to the artists' world.
Those who had tape recorders made audio recordings of these fiestas. Discretely recording the music was generally condoned and often encouraged by the artists. They also took photographs, mostly amateur photographs, like one would take on vacation of family and friends. Many of these images were extraordinary in content as well as in their own artfulness, yet their technical quality varied widely, and not all have survived to this day.
These were students of guitar and cante, ethnomusicologists, self-proclaimed aficionados or social partners just along for the ride. For those attuned to the power and integrity of the life and music, there was no better place to be. They returned to their home countries with experiences that would change their lives, memories they would never forget and friendships that would be sorely missed. They also spread awareness of flamenco puro around the world.
Aside from José Manuel Caballero Bonald's 1964 seminal field recordings Archivo del Cante Flamenco
, José María Velázquez-Gaztelu's monumental TV film project, "Rito y Geografía del Cante" broadcast between 1971 and 1973 and the occasional local radio station's recording of festivals, these foreigners were among the very few individuals making informal documents of flamenco art. Memorable performances of many great artists, who were never recorded professionally, are to be found on their tapes.
These documents create a picture of flamenco life, experienced through the eyes and ears of those foreigners who came to witness the intimate moments of joy and pain expressed in the art and the daily routine of flamenco life. The documents reflect an outsider's perspective on pueblo life, portraying flamenco in its original context.
It is time to share these memories with those who have only heard stories and bits and pieces of the music of that era. It should not be forgotten.
Although the phenomenon of the "foreign invasion" of the 1960s and 70s ended with political and economic changes in Spain, foreigners still ventured to the Meccas of flamenco, continuing to enjoy the music and photograph emerging artists. Currently, the flow of cultural and musical influence has reversed course: flamenco has embraced Jazz and even Hip-Hop as major influences, and we now have "flamenco nuevo" born again as a commercially viable, flamenco–inspired genre of "world music".
The material in the Collection is wholly owned by the individual contributors. The Project is a temporary construct maintained by the Editor Steve Kahn to house and present the material. It is the intent for the collection to be exhibited along with original audio recordings of fiestas and films, accompanied by a full catalog and a limited-edition, 10-print portfolio available for collectors. Furthermore, it is a goal for the work to be acquired and archived by one or more institutions dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of these documents of the great legends of flamenco.
The Flamenco Project consists of a growing collection of more than one hundred fifty images culled from the work of 16 non-Spaniards who loved the art of pueblo flamenco. They have seen things as others have not, and their images bring a fresh point of view to the visual history of the flamencos from 1960 to 1985.
Christopher Carnes (USA Ð deceased) William Davidson (USA) Ruth Frazier (USA) Dick Frisell (England/Sweden - deceased) Ira Gavrin (USA) David George (USA - deceased) Paco Grande (USA) Jane Grossenbacher (USA - deceased) Mark Johnson (USA) Steve Kahn (USA) Robert Klein (Germany) George Krause (USA) Charles Mullen (USA - deceased) Daniel Seymour (US - deceased) María Silver (USA) Phil Slight (New Zealand)
Four original flamenco juergas recorded in Morón de la Frontera by Steve Kahn in 1967, previously unpublished. Artists include Diego del Gastor, La Fernanda de Utrera, Perrate de Utrera, Curro Mairena, Fernandillo de Morón, Luis Torres ”Joselero”, Andorrano and others.
Danny Seymour's long-lost 17-minute documentary "Flamencología" filmed in Morón de la Frontera in 1970;
Tao Ruspoli's contemporary narrative film "Flamenco: A Personal Journey" recording his encounters with flamencos old and young in Andalusia, and the revealing links between the two generations.
Various articles, essays, personal impressions and anecdotes by non-Spaniards who lived the life during this unique window of opportunity as well as by those Spaniards whose insight and knowledge have contributed to the greater appreciation and understanding of the music and cultural exchange during this period.
Robin Broadbank, David George, Mica Graña, Steve Kahn, Nina Menendez, Carl Nagin, Lorin Piper, D.E. Pohren, José Manuel Gamboa, José María Velázquez-Gaztelu, William Washabaugh, Remy Weber, Estela Zatania, Brook Zern
About The Editor
Steve Kahn is a New York based, internationally known commercial and fine art photographer whose work has been exhibited, published and collected worldwide. Already a student of classical and flamenco guitar in 1967, he traveled from New York to Morón de la Frontera, on leave of absence from a doctoral program in physics, in search of Diego del Gastor and the art of pueblo flamenco. His three-month break grew into a two-year adventure that changed the course of his life. He lived among the flamenco artists, absorbing what he could of Diego's musical genius and shot a few photographs before his camera was lost. Upon returning to the States, he dropped out of academia to pursue a career as a freelance photographer.
Forty years later he is still shooting pictures and playing the guitar. Recently he started to wonder, "What happened to all those photographs of the flamencos that I have seen in broken frames and taped to refrigerator doors over the years? Are they lost, destroyed, or forgotten in dark closets somewhere? Where are they now?" He set out on a quest to find them, and over the next seven years recovered over one hundred fifty images, collected numerous anecdotes and digitalized many wonderful fiesta recordings.
Steve has brought both his music experience and digital photographic skills to make this collection into a superb body of museum-quality work. He has scanned the original negatives and prints, restored the images and produced archival prints for exhibition and preservation.
Steve Kahn's photography website: http://www.stevekahn.com
About PHOTOVISION and the Prints:
Steve Kahn has been working closely with Ignacio González, director of PHOTOVISION publishing and digital print studio and exclusive distributor in Spain of Legion digital printing and fine art papers. As production partners in the exhibitions and book, they have brought
together their critical experience, aesthetic judgments and different cultural perspectives into a genuinely collaborative effort. Photographer and master digital printer Alejando Sosa made the exhibition prints at PHOTOVISION's studio in Utrera (Sevilla). The prints were made on Legion
Entrada Natural Rag (300 gsm) paper using an Epson 9800 wide format inkjet printer.
PHOTOVISION's website: http://www.photovision.es