The Museum University of Navarra (MUN) is home to the vast photographic output of José Ortiz de Echagüe. Born in Guadalajara in 1886, Ortiz de Echagüe was an engineer and pilot who developed his professional life first in the military and later in the private sector. Parallelly, he undertook a detailed photographic recollection of Spanish culture, landscape and architecture, which has earned him recognition as one of the key authors in the history of Spanish photography.
His photographic legacy consists of more than 1000 carbon positive pictures and uncountable negatives, divided in four different categories by the author himself. Bequeathed to the University of Navarra in 1981, the collection led to the creation of a permanent exhibition space at the MUN in 2007. Since then, the photographs of Ortiz de Echagüe have directly influenced and articulated many of the other artistic initiatives held at MUN, with specific impact in dance and performance art. More specifically, in the last three years the MUN has commissioned and hosted four dance productions directly inspired in Ortiz de Echagüe’s photographs. Renowned international choreographers such as Daniel Abreu, Dani Panullo, Antonio Ruz and Jon Maya have curated performances aimed to give life to these photographs, and in doing so, have expanded Ortiz de Echagüe’s artistic reach. Furthermore, it also inspired the costume design of Antonio Ruz’s Electra, produced at the “Ballet Nacional de España”.
This article reflects on the connections between the photographic output of José Ortiz de Echagüe and these five dance productions, all of them created and performed between 2018 and 2020. How do these photographs act as visual triggers for contemporary choreographers and creators? What movements can be mapped in Ortiz de Echagüe’s photographs? How do still images inspire movement and other scenography elements? What are the creative processes involved in providing movement to a bidimensional work of art? How does photography turn into performance art? How can these portrayals of 20th Century Spain be translated to our present?
The goal of this research is threefold. On one hand it contributes to outlining the creative processes related to the creation of a photography-based dance production. On the other hand, it aims to highlight the relevance of Ortiz de Echagüe’s photographs at present, the timelessness of his portrayal of Spanish identity, and the relevance of this archive for modern day creative productions in the arts. Finally, this article will also act as an academic framework for a future artistic collaboration between MUN and Farout (Creative and Performative Artistic Research Collective).