My exhibition “Érase una vez en Almería: Decorados, Restos y Paisajes de Cine” (“Once Upon a Time in Almería”) was inaugurated this last weekend in Almería, Spain. The exhibition included 18 framed prints 24″ x 36″, all images of film sets and locations around the province of Almeria, which was the site of hundreds of movie productions primarily in the 1960s and 1970s. The exhibition showed sets built to recreate shootings, constructions where “good, bad and ugly folks” found a shelter and landscapes through where stagecoaches were heading to the unknown.
“Mark Parascandola presents his vision of what is left of the golden age of cinema. The exhibition ‘Once Upon a Time in Almería’ shows the remains of that period when stars like Brigitte Bardot were walking on these streets to be forever immortalized in films such as “Cleopatra”, “Lawrence of Arabia” or “The dollars trilogy”, among many others”.
Organized and sponsored by the Instituto de Estudios Almerienses (www.iealmerienses.es) and coordinated by Mar Verdejo, the exhibition is included in the fifth edition of the Almería Western Film Festival (http://www.almeriawesternfilmfestival.es/), after which it will travel to other locations around the province.
Here there are some extracts of the press articles about the exhibition:
**Paseo fotográfico por los vestigios del cine de Almería
“Mark Parascandola admitted to be fascinated by the light and the landscape of Almería. A land where his family has deep roots, as her mother is native from Alhabia, and a place which he got to know well in his childhood through the stories his mother told him about the place”.
“In my photos I focus on the abandoned architecture and its relationship with the landscape. They are like ghost towns which were never inhabited and which never pretended to be an exact copy of the far west, but of the fiction, said Mark Parascandola”.
**Fotografía y cine de Almería a través de Mark Parascandola
Mar Verdejo, curator of the exhibition, states how a few years ago the traces of the cinema in Almería were just followed by some romantics who wanted to remember the cinematographic past of the province. Nowadays, it is a fact that Almería is again back in the front lines of the cinematographic industry and many of those romantics are the ones to blame for the re-launching of the cinema industry in Almería.
Mar Verdejo highlights the work of Mark Parascandola, photographer and a good friend of her, who shows through his photography the landscapes of Almería. Both met four years ago when Mark was interested in photographing La Chanca. He wanted to dive into the place´s colour, architecture and vitality. Since then, Mark has visited Almería in multiple occasions to photograph the abandoned places which are silent witnesses of the cinematographic past of the province. Through his photos Mark shows us his personal perception of the land, offering a dignified picture of our local memory and also another one, more personal, of his own ancestors. Through his photographs we discover why American and European directors were drawn to the peculiar light and landscape of Almería.
A quote from the original article by Mar Verdejo:
“His intelligent look provokes sensations and feelings that we would not be able to perceive without the help of his camera, no matter if he takes a photo of a movie set, an abandoned construction or a busy neighborhood anywhere in the world. Mark was born in Washington D.C and is doctor in Epidemiology, and so he is constantly studying the people and the environment that surrounds them. In his photos we don´t find only the look of an artist, but also the look of an expert that is able to discover stories behind the remains of the forgotten movie sets, of our own history and his history as well: because Elisa, Mark´s mother, native from Alhabia, told him stories about the dessert and about another Almería that no longer exists today. In his numerous visits to our land, Mark has been soaking up the scenery, which on his own words is “tough and ruthless” and transforming it in a huge and bright landscape in any of the photos he takes. Mark captures the landscape, and at the same time, memories of his family”.
**El IEA promueve la muestra de fotografía de Mark Parascandola en el Almería Western Film Festival
“Mar Verdejo, the coordinator of the activity has emphasized that Mark Parascandola´s photographs present two different looks: the artist look and the expert look, because Mark is influenced by his studies of epidemiology that took him to analyze the health and movements of human populations. ‘In this case, the remains of the movie sets offer concrete evidences of human settlements that never existed, because the movie directors transformed the inhabited landscape of the dessert to create a world more imaginary than real’, says Mar Verdejo”.
**Mark Parascandola expone sus fotografías en el Almería Western Film Festival
“Francisco Alonso, the coordinator of the Instituto de Estudios Almerienses thanked the artist for the exhibition which didn´t have any cost for the provincial institution, and whose only “profit” is the personal gratification for seeing the people from Almería and visitors enjoy his artistic work. He also thanked the Tabernas´ City Council for including the exhibition as part of its Film Festival and for helping with the organization”.
“Parascandola has expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to present this exhibition in Almería. He has also disclosed that his interest for the movie sets was not only personal, but also conceptual. The photographs focus on the abandoned architecture and its relationship with the landscape. Mark has emphasized his fascination with the light, the landscapes and the remains of the sets in the province”.
**Mark Parascandola expone en Tabernas su mirada por escenarios olvidados del cine en Almería
As the author of the article states, Mark Parascandola conceived the project as a result of a triple fascination.
Firstly, the fact of building the landscape of the Far West in the south of Spain is a fiction, not only because it is an imaginary built landscape, but because this interpretation by Italian film directors has been ultimately engraved in the collective consciousness.
Secondly, Mark states that the Franco dictatorship was interested in showing a country with wonderful landscapes, great history and colorful traditions to attract foreign visitors and foreign currency. However, as Mark Parascandola said, that image of Spain that was seen abroad, through the movies or in the beaches, was very far away from the tough reality the country was going through at that time.
Finally, his fascination with the stories his grandmother told him in his childhood, stories of a forgotten and different Almería which only exists in the movies of the period, also played an essential role in the planning of the project.
Here are some quotes from the original article:
“The exhibition, which has been organized by the Instituto de Estudios Almerienses”, has been curated by the landscape engineer Mar Verdejo Coto and is the result of the personal look of the North-American photographer Mark Parascandola who captures the forgotten legacy that the cinema has left in the landscape of Almería.
Many movie productions were shot in Almería, and many sets were built to resemble Ákaba, the Far West, or even the moon, and while some of them have been restored and can be visited by the tourists, many of them have disappeared and their destroyed remains have been completely forgotten”