Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Editorial Lumen Palabra e Imagen series

For the first post of the year I’ve decided to dig into the vaults for books that are a bit more obscure than the last few postings have held.

In the early sixties the publisher Editorial Lumen in Barcelona started a series of books that matched writers with photographers called the ‘Palabra e Imagen’ (Words and Images) collection. This is an interesting series because the mix of words and images does not coalesce into one uniform story. Each medium relates to one another but held to its own track thus not serving as direct illustrations of each other.

Each of the books follows a uniform size of 8.5 by 9 inches and approximate length of 100 pages with 30-35 images. One curious design note is that the pages of text are printed on thick gray colored paper creating an unmistakable separation between text and image. All of the texts are in Spanish.

The first of the series published in 1962 seems to have been a book called Neutral Corner with photographs by Ramon Masats and texts by Ignacio Alcoa. This is a collection of short stories about boxing mixed with Masats’ photographs of pugilists. I have not ever seen this edition but from the few images that I have seen (and the high praise that Alcoa’s writing receives) I am going to track down a copy. (Hopefully before the rest of you do.)

The second in the series is Toreo de Salon which was published in 1963. This combines text by one of Spain’s more controversial writers, Camilo Jose Cela with the photography of Oriol Maspons and Julio Ubina. It is a book about young men training to be toreadors or bullfighters. Using a pair of bull’s horns mounted to a bicycle wheel, they practice or play at bullfighting while taking turns as to who is the toreador and who is the bull. One thing that is interesting is even though the boys are not in any real danger in their play-making, the photographers caught them with expressions that give the impression that all parties involved are deadly serious and fully invested in their imaginations. (This series of photographs is reminiscent of the short essay by Robert Frank that appears in the Sobre Valencia 1950 catalog I had written about a while ago on June 11th).

Toreo de Salon plays with the page design in a way that the other releases do not as it has three pages that are foldouts. Interestingly, it is a foldout that extends the page only about ½ again as much to accommodate the 35mm frame proportions. Due to the format of the books which is almost square, many of the photographs wind up either cropped or bled to the top and bottom edge accompanied by white page filling edges. This book appeared in subsequent editions in 1972 and 1984.

In 1964, three books in the Palabras E Imagen collection appeared; Izas, Rabizas y Colipoterras, Una Casa en La Arena and Viejas Historias de Castilla La Vieja.

The most well-known of the three is Juan Colom and Camilo Jose Cela’s Izas, Rabizas y Colipoterras (I cannot find an adequate translation of the title). Juan Colom I have written about before as Steidl published Les Gens du Raval (French Edition) which is a larger collection of the photographs that appear in this book. Juan or Joan Colom, photographed the prostitutes of El Ravel in Barcelona.

Colom’s camera weaves through the crowd grabbing at gesture, expression and body language and often narrowing down the information with a sketch-like directness. Whether he is photographing negotiations for sex or picking out faces in the street life, he does so without judgment. He achieves in his description, a tone of the barrio that gives a sense of comradeship among its patrons. 5B4 May 7, 2007

The designers, Cristian Cirici and Oscar Tusquets pull some interesting design tricks. In a couple cases, they run a photograph of one of the prostitutes on one page, and then on the verso, they place a version of the same photograph that is heavily cropped down to only the face of the prostitute. On the last page, the designers created a wheel of images and chapter headings in one of the more interesting indexes I have seen.

The other title from 1964 that I have seen is La Casa en La Arena (The House in the Sand) by the Chilean photographer Sergio Larrain and the writer Pablo Neruda. This a book of photographs taken inside and around Neruda’s home on Isla Negra off the coast of Chile accompanied by Pablo’s short texts.

Larrain is one of my favorite photographers but here he seems to be restrained compared to his other work done in the port city of Valparaiso or his great work from London a few years prior. Although he comes away with some wonderful images, they seem to lack the energy of his extremely low vantage points and edge testing frames that were so ground breaking for their time.

That being said, Larrain himself had written of the collaboration, “When I started taking photos, he asked me to take some pictures of his house on Isla Negra, because they had asked him for a text with photographs on a subject of his choice. I wanted to photograph the beach, the waves, the sand and the rocks, which were marvelous; he wanted his house which I found boring as a visual subject. The final result was La Casa en La Arena, which combined the two things - we both compromised.” Contrary to Larrain, I find the photos of the interior of the house more engaging than his fascination for the rocks and waves along the beach.

This was published in subsequent editions in 1969 and 1984. Many of the later editions of this come with a rather fugly dust jacket that markets on Neruda’s receipt of the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1971.

1964 also saw the publication of Viejas Historias de Castilla La Vieja (Old Histories of Castilla, the Old One) with photography by Ramon Masats and text by Miguel Delibes. I have never seen a copy of this title so I do not have much to add other than it exists, it contains 28 photographs, and it is the second in the series using the photographer Ramon Masats. (Sorry.)

In 1967, Lumen published Los Cachorros with photographs by Xavier Miserachs and text by Mario Vargas Llosa. The title translates as The Puppies or The Cubs and Llosa’s text is a short story about group of boys and the psychological change brought upon one of them after being accidentally castrated by a dog. I haven’t seen a copy of this book and I really hope that the photos don’t follow the storyline. From the few images that I have seen, Miserachs style looks close to that of William Klein with his use of wide angle lenses and blur.

The last of the series that I am familiar with is La Ciudad de Las Columnas (The City of Columns) published in 1970. This is a book about the architecture in Cuba with the photographer Paolo Gasparini and text by Alejo Carpentier. Gasparini has been the subject of interest due to his spiral bound book Megalopolis: Los Angeles, Mexico, San Paolo which was published in 2000 by the Centro di Ricerca e Archiviazione Della Fotografia. Here, the photography is more reserved as it concentrates on the portals and details of the doorways found in the architecture typical of Havana. Unlike much of the other photography used in the Palabra e Imagen series, the work here does seem like straight forward illustrations of the text from what I can make out with my limited Spanish.

Overall, this series is somewhat hit or miss. Martin Parr and Gerry Badger picked out two of the best titles to feature in their Photobook history with Toreo de Salon and Izas, Rabizas y Colipoterras but others are worthwhile if they can be found. Many of these are now commanding high prices (my friend just returned from a trip to Lima Peru where in a bookstore he found copies of Izas and Ciudad de Las Columnas and they were 100 US dollars each). If anyone owns a copy of Los Cachorros, Viejas Historias de Castilla La Vieja or Neutral Corner, please let us know in the comments section of 5B4. I’d be interested to hear if they are worthwhile as all of the photographers look very promising.


Anonymous said...

Izas, Rabizas y Calipoterras: three different (and exotic: I haven't seen them elsewhere) names for prostitutes in Spanish. Cela was one of the most gifted users of the spanish language, with an unparalleled command of its vocabulary (he even wrote a two volume dictionary of cuss words).

I would like to point out for those not familiar with spanish culture, that the writers selected for this series were some of the best writers in Spanish, and the photographers (Masats, Colom, Maspons) were also some of Spain's best.

I have a 1996 reissue of Neutral Corner, but it doesn't follow the original design, and some of the pictures are missing. There is a note describing the original photographs.


Anonymous said...

I have found that when searching for these titles they are usually listed by the writers name.

Anonymous said...

I just want to thank you for continually digging up things that make me sweat like an addict on the prowl for the next fix.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 'J',

I did a lot of research trying to translate the title and you are probably right. Izas can mean 'to hoist', Rabizas can refer to a small piece of string that you tie a longer piece of string to, as on the end of a fishing pole. Colipoterras has no translation.

At the beginning of the book there is a poem from the 1550's in old Spanish that is about a man boasting about the women (Hurgamanderas y Putaracanas) he has been with in Valencia and Sevilla (Seuilla). Within this he mentions Ycas, Rabicas y Colipoterras. Since the 'names' are capitalized I think they are names like you say. That being said, I had a couple friends where Spanish (and Catalan) is their first language and they came away as confused and unsure as I am.

Thanks for your info.

Unknown said...

Hi Jeff
I think I have 9 books in this series, I think have even seen more and passed on them, as they can be as bad as they are good. Neutral corner is pretty good, but the 2 best are the ones we featured. I have been meaning to talk to Horacio Fernandez about this series to get the definitive list. I would also recommend from the same period , the 7 volume Fotografias al minuto Nuevas Erscanas Maritenses, again combining one of the best Spanish writers, Camillo Jose Cela with photos by Enrique Palazuelo.
Martin Parr

Anonymous said...

Thanks Martin...Please let me know if you track down a definitive list. Is the Los Cachorros one any good?

Anonymous said...


I think the correct spelling of the title is Nuevas Escenas Matritenses (Madrid: Alfaguara, 1966).


Jeff: Thanks for the blog. I would like to comment more often, but the books mentioned aren't easily available overseas at the time they appear here...

PS: I would bet Izas appears as Iças, and Rabizas as Rabiças in the poem, in old spanish spelling.

Anonymous said...

The spelling is with your cedillas but Izas is spelled in the poem starting with a 'Y'. I was told that it might have had something to do with a pronunciation direction using the Y.

Anonymous said...

For anyone interested, Mr. Parr has come up with the definitive list of Palabra e Imagen boks published in the 60's and 70's by Lumen.

They are as follows:

Ana María Matute [Buesa]. Libro de juegos para los niños de los otros.
Fotos Jaime Buesa. Diseño LuisClotet, Oscar Tusquets. Barcelona:
Lumen, Palabra e imagen,1961. n.p. (50 + 16 p.).

Ignacio Aldecoa [Masats]. Neutral corner. Fotos Ramón Masats. Diseño
Luis Clotet y Oscar Tusquets. Barcelona: Lumen, Palabra e imagen,
1962. n.p. (44 + 32 p).

Camilo José Cela [Maspons + Ubiña]. Toreo de salón. Farsa con
acompañamiento de clamor y murga. Fotos Oriol Maspons, Julio Ubiña.
Diseño José Bonet y Oscar Tusquets. Barcelona: Lumen, Palabra e
imagen, 1963. n.p.

Miguel Delibes [Maspons]. La caza de la perdiz roja. Fotos Oriol
Maspons. Barcelona: Lumen, Palabra e imagen, 1963. n.p.

Miguel Delibes [Masats]. Viejas historias de Castilla la Vieja. Fotos
Ramón Masats. Diseño Hans Romberg, Oscar Tusquets. Barcelona: Lumen,
Palabra e imagen, 1964. n.p. (66 + 28 p).

Camilo José Cela [Colom]. Izas, rabizas y colipoterras. Drama con
acompañamiento de cachondeo y dolor de corazón. Fotos Juan Colom.
Diseño Cristian Cirici, Oscar Tusquets. Barcelona: Lumen, Palabra e imagen, 1964. n.p. (86 + 36 p)

Alfonso Grosso [Ontañón]. Los días iluminados. Semana Santa en
Andalucía. Fotos Francisco Ontañón. Diseño Oscar Tusquets. Barcelona:
Lumen, Palabra e imagen, 1965.107p.

Pablo Neruda [Larrain]. Una casa en la arena. Fotos Sergio Larrain.
Diseño Toni Miserachs y Oscar Tusquets. Barcelona: Lumen, Palabra e imagen, 1966. n.p.

Mario Vargas Llosa [Miserachs]. Los Cachorros. Fotos Xavier
Miserachs. Diseño Oscar Tusquets. Barcelona: Lumen, Palabra e imagen,
1967. 105 p.

Federico García Lorca [Maspons + Ubiña]. Poeta en Nueva York. Fotos
Oriol Maspons, Julio Ubiña. Barcelona: Lumen, Palabra e imagen, 1967. n.p.

Rafael Alberti [Català-Roca]. El libro del mar. Fotos Francisco
Català-Roca. Barcelona: Lumen 1968.

Alejo Carpentier [Gasparini]. La ciudad de las columnas. Fotos Paolo
Gasparini. Diseño Mariona Aguirre y Toni Miserachs. Barcelona: Lumen,
Palabra e imagen, 1970. n.p.

Carlos Barral [Malet]. Informe personal sobre el alba y acerca de
algunas auroras particulares. Fotos César Malet. Diseño Mariona
Aguirre y Toni Miserachs. Barcelona: Lumen, Palabra e imagen, 1970. n.p. (64 + 36 p.)

Juan Benet [Colita]. Una tumba. Fotos Colita. Diseño Enric Satué.
Barcelona: Lumen, Palabra e imagen, 1971. 107 p.

Juan Ferraté [Frisell]. Veinticinco poemas de Cavafis. Fotos Dick
Frisell. Diseño Juan Ferraté y Toni Miserachs. Barcelona: Lumen,
Palabra e imagen, 1971. n.p.

Octavio Paz, Julián Ríos. Solo a dos voces. Fotos Antonio Gálvez et
al. Diseño Toni Miserachs. Barcelona: Lumen, Palabra e imagen, 1973. n. p. 47 fotos.

José María Caballero Bonald [Colita]. Luces y sombras del flamenco.
Fotos Colita. Barcelona: Lumen, Palabra e imagen, 1975. n.p. (144 +108 p.)

Anonymous said...

In this list these books are missing:

CORTAZAR, JULIO (Julio Cortázar) Prosa del Observatorio. (Barcelona): Editorial Lumen, (1972), with pictures of the Cortázar himself.

VEGAS, ANTONIO LAS (Photos Joan Fontcuberta). Días de frontera, días de circo. Editorial Lumen (1975)

Unknown said...

Dear Jeff
First: congratulations by this wonderful blog - its information is splendid and the sense of humor still better.
On the Lumen photobooks:
In the list that I sent to Martin Parr and he sent to you the book of Cortazar lacks, it is truth - my fault, sorry.
But the book 'Días de frontera, días de circo' does not exist. I have written to Joan Fontcuberta, who has laughed a lot with the story and says he is not the author: I think that it is true what he says.
In fact it is a joke of a writer who has invented the personage 'Antonio Las Vegas'. In a webpage the cover of the book appears with another publishing house (Neptuno) and a photo by ¡Diane Arbus! I do not know if he likes the mess or he wants to be a ghost author.
Now I am writing on the subject for a lecture. May be by then I will have a ‘definitive’ list – I will try it. I will send a copy to you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you to the last two comments for the added info.

I hope to receive the definitive list at some point. This series was a bit of a mystery.

Anonymous said...

Hello Jeff. These two columns + blog commentaries have been most helpful for me to complete this collection. In searching my last titles I discovered one that has been omitted in the discussions:
I can scan you the covers if you want.
Let's see if this completes the "definitive list".

Anonymous said...

Col. "Palabra e imagen": One book more, but…

I have one book more of the collection "Palabra e imagen":

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer [Trullàs]. Rimas. Fotos Isidre Trullàs. Diseño Joaquín Monclús. Barcelona: Lumen, Palabra e imagen, 1985. 168 p. ISBN 84-264-2018-4

But... it was published ten years after the last title and, in spite of it has the same format and appears under the title of the collection "Palabra e imagen", the quality is very different (low!).

Until mid 90’s it was possible to buy books of this collection in the bookstores of Barcelona by 4-6 dollars. Later the prices raised...

I was searching, (and I never found) the complete list of titles until I visited your blog. Thank you very much!

Raimon (Barcelona, Spain)

Anonymous said...