Between 2015 and 2017, I visited towns and villages all over Spain trying to find answers to the questions raised by my wish to pay tribute to my grandfather Luis––and all the grandfathers––who died in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). I would have liked to have known him, and I know that my mother and uncle would have wanted, needed, to live and grow up with him. It was not to be.
Where are the survivors? Who are they? What did the war mean to them? Urged on by these questions, I was able to locate some of the last soldiers who took part in the war, and women who experienced life at the time.
The portraits I present in this exhibition are of those people, who are very old today, or who have died since being photographed, who were one day the youth of Spain. Most were barely out of their childhood when they went to war, aged 17 and 18 years.
This exhibition does not deal with the objective work of an historian, but the subjective memory of those who suffered the effects of the civil war first hand. I wanted to rescue those combatants from oblivion, give them a name and a face, and listen to their account, an oral testimony of a historic event that had collective repercussions and of a vital moment of great personal significance: the unavoidable approach of the end of their lives.
The testimonies of these fighters have been captured on a 46 min video presenting a number of extracts, fragments of the conversations held with them in front of the camera. I wanted each individual to tell their own story at their own pace. A memory altered by time, by emotion, and by their present circumstances.
Time may have altered their memories, but their emotions and their intensity endure. Memories make us more human, and in light of the people who experienced them, allow us to understand this heinous war that destroyed entire families and whose disturbing reminders continue to haunt us today.