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Piedad Isla. Poetic Realism

Esteban Sainz Vidal & Feliciano López Pastor

Fundación Piedad Isla & Juan Torres, Ayuntamiento de Alcalá de Henares & PHotoESPAÑA
Antiguo Hospital de Santa María la Rica — Antiguo Hospital de Santa María la Rica. Calle Santa María la Rica, 3, 28801, Alcalá de Henares  

  • Mar-sáb / Tue-Sat:
    11.00 – 14.00 h. / 18.00 – 21.00 h.
    Dom / Sun: 11.00 – 14.00 h.
    Lunes cerrado / Mondays closed

Entrada libre / Free admission

A pioneer in neo-realist photography, Piedad Isla worked with a vitalist, committed vision in rural post-war Spain. Her photography was free, based on an extraordinary innate instinct, without any theoretical prejudices that would inhibit her approach to reality. She had a unique way of recounting life, and therefore of living it. Her real inspiration was the human condition, the worship of elders, the adoration of children and respect for the land.
She was not an outside spectator but instead immersed herself in the soul of the village through belonging. This is why her pictures boast the value of authenticity. The artist documented her own world, interacted with the people she photographed, and knew their names and their circumstances, while they, in turn, recognised her as one of their own. Thus, her photographs in Poetic Realism are capable of conveying an emotional charge and a naturalism which they would be unlikely to have if the people portrayed had been caught off-guard by an alien camera.


This selection shows the way she portrayed Spanish Costumbrism like few others, and how her tireless curiosity meant that not one aspect of village life went unnoticed: shops, festivals, taverns, clutches of friends, shepherds, processions, cart drivers, weddings, old women dressed in mourning garb, children, card games, beggars, dogs, civil guards, funerals, more children, priests wearing their soutanes and traditional sandals, newly-ordained priests singing their first mass, seamstresses, portraits with sheets billowing in the background, cats, bowling matches, markets, bullfights, children… always children.


Her dedication to photography earned her acclaim throughout her career. In addition to being a correspondent for Agencia Efe, she also worked simultaneously as a social dynamo, philanthropist and defender of the cultural heritage and nature. Piedad Isla has been a mirror reflecting the memory of a rural world that has now vanished. Her work is a journey rooted in a land from which many have set out but where few have actually stayed.
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