Alberto Schommer

Alberto Schommer was born in Vitoria in 1928. Schommer saw from being a child how his father, the German photographer Albrecht Schommer Koch, although he was a doctor by profession, captured with a camera the city’s life and became one of the best photographers of Spain in the 40’s and 50’s.

After having finishing his studies he worked with painting which he alternated with his interest in cinema and photography.

In 1952 he travelled to Hamburg in order to study photography and he made the most of it travelling in the whole of Europe, visiting diverse museums. In 1958 he linked up with AFAL, a group of Spanish photographers who started a photographic renovation process in the middle of the XX century where the main communicative vehicle was magazines. This same year he moved to Paris to work as a Balenciaga photographer, but scarcely a month later, he returned to Vitoria at the request of his father.

At the beginning of the 70’s he definitively dropped painting and accepted his first assignments as an industrial photographer for companies of the builder Juan Huarte, patrons of artists such as Chillida, Oteiza or Balerdi.

In 1965 he opened a studio in Madrid and exhibited in Cologne. In 1966 he was a founding member of the Orain group of artists from Alava. At the end of the decade he started to go in depth into advertising photography and in 1971 he set up a great set designated for photography and advertising films. A year later the newspaper ABC put him in charge of a series of portraits for the Sunday supplement, which, together with others previously done, made up the series Psychological portraits. His way of dealing with portraits would have a great repercussion during the 70’s and 80’s and his photos became a kind of visual report of the Transition.

Between 1973 and 1974 he made his first “Cascographies” which are photos which are assembled, fitted together and acquire volumes and textures from the hands of the author. In 1976 he started to collaborate with the newspaper El País publishing his series The Spanish church in levitation, Political groups and The dismantling of Francoism. In 1978 he published The cry of the people, about Gipuzkoa. The same year he was invited by the Spanish Royal Family to take the first official photos of the kings, who he followed on their travels.

During the 80’s, his international projection was intensified, and he added to his tireless exhibition activity his work as a lecturer and a teacher in courses and photographic workshops. In the middle of the decade he stared the series Masks and Ferment. In 1989 the Fine Arts Circle of Madrid organized a retrospective exhibition of his work, opened by TRM the Kings of Spain. The exhibition of the Fine Arts Circle of Madrid travelled through different museums in Spain and came to be exhibited for three months in the Pompidou Centre in Paris. For the 150th Anniversary of Photography, the Japanese Photographic society invited him, along with another fourteen prestigious international photographers to functions in Tokyo. He was named Distinguished Academic of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts the same year.

In 1990 the National Heritage entrusted him with Absences a personal vision about the different palaces and monasteries, and from that date on, Schommer worked less in his studio and worked mainly on documentary projects in book form: Madrid, Rome-New York, Havana, Venice, Buenos Aires, Shanghai, Mexico City, Paris, Berlin, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Brazil, Morocco, The Alhambra, The Escorial, Santiago de Compostela, Cordoba, etc.

The same year he exhibited his new piece of work Cacography in the Ceramo Gallery in Vitoria and the complete collection of Numbered Compositions.

A year later, he elaborated an individual exhibition of his series Cascography in Les Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie in Arles (France), where Schommer also lead a workshop about portraits. He also started his work as a lecturer in the summer courses of the Escorial, and his work was exhibited in the National Museum of Art Centre Reina Sofia in Madrid.

Throughout this decade his presence in international exhibitions was increased and he continued publishing numerous books. In 1994 the newspaper El País set up a stand in the Contemporary Art Fair ARCO with a selection of photos together with artwork of the painter Antonio Lopez.

In 1996 he was named Full Member of the Royal Fine Arts Academy of San Fernando. In 1998, on the occasion of his entry, he gave the speech Praise for photography.

During the whole of this decade, he published various books and his work was exhibited in diverse museums and galleries, participating at the same time in the summer course of the Complutense University in the Escorial.

In 2005, on the occasion of the inauguration of the Memory Documentary Centre in Salamanca the exhibition The transition. 1977 – 1988 was organized, with a catalogue which brings together his work carried out in the press during this period.

In 2006 he participated in the exhibition of Academics’ work, Two looks in the Museum of the Royal Fine Arts Academy in Madrid. In 2008 he published Transfiguration which brings together experimental work about plants and flowers. At the beginning of 2009, the Ministry of Culture awarded Alberto Schommer the Gold Medal of Merit in Fine Arts.

In 2010, the Museum of Fine Arts in Bilbao exhibited Schommer: retrospective 1952-2009. The following year he published his book Metro, on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the Madrid metro.

In 2013, he was awarded the National Photography Prize which is given by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport. The jury recognised his continued photographic career over more than fifty years, in which he had not only addressed all themes, but also has innovated in the medium, from a technical and documentary point of view, being a witness of the cultural and social transformation of our country.

In 2014, he exhibited the Feminine look in the AAC Aina Nowack Gallery being part of the program of the international festival of photography and visual arts Photoespaña. In this exposition he aimed to show a genre, maybe less known, exhibiting a “feminine vision” of his work, in contrast to his well-known psychological portraits from the 70’s.

On the 21st of July of the same year, Alberto Schommer displayed the exhibition Masks in the Prado National Museum. He presented portraits of writers and artists from different generations which are shown in a special context, accompanied by a selection of painted portraits of the collections of the Prado from the XVI century until the beginning of the XX century, which correspond to a similar typology.

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