Graham Denby column: Photography museum, Almodovar, Portugal
Apr 14 2010 by Graham Denby
MY new friend and Camara (town hall) contact Patricia has been rather busy of late but I managed to pin her down the other week so we could put in some time visiting more places of interest in Almodovar.
I merely had to tell her I needed a little more culture in my life and, well, how could she fail to agree?
Bearing this in mind, our first port of call after the obligatory café visit was to the Municipal Art and Photography museum, situated on a corner off the main Square of the Republic which was constructed during the 16th century.
It’s housed in a splendid old building on two floors. The ground (first floor to Portuguese) housing the Photographic Museum and the first floor featuring the art gallery.
The photographs are displayed on the walls on backing boards and are in black and white. The oldest ones from the late 19th century are, in fact, by a British photographer and show snippets of life to the present day.
Some of the more memorable for me are:
1952 – The tallest (7ft 4ins) man in Portugal and the shortest (4ft), both coincidentally from Almodovar!
1960s – A load of old cobblers … er … shoemakers in full productive flow. Apparently Almodovar was the main production area for the South Alentejo.The photograph actually features Patricia’s grandfather hard at work. I was told that they‘ll be ready Friday if I can call back!
1974 – People gather in the streets to celebrate the April revolution and the (thankfully bloodless) overthrow of Salazar. Patricia’s dad as a young man is in the picture!
There are many others showing children sitting on the convent school steps, old football teams, old views around the town which can easily be relived if you go round for a look down the same streets now, but ignore the cars!
There are harvest time shots showing cork being gathered on donkeys and, again, that can still be seen out on the mountains as well as pictures of farmers using old hay balers from the 1960s. One of them is the spitting image of the one down near us, still in use in the autumn, that I included in an article at the end of last year.
A really good guy called Rui Cortes accompanied our tour. He is a historian and architect working for the Camara and what a splendidly well informed and enthusiastic guide he was! The place is totally free to visit and there is a video show to accompany any viewings. The Camara are really proud of their heritage and the setting of the Museum of Photography in the tight surroundings add to the period feel.
The ground floor of the place was the original town jail and the walls are suitably thick and the windows stoutly barred. It dates back over 300 years and the upstairs – now the art gallery – was the first setting for the then town council – handy really because if there was a problem with any expense claims like we have had in the UK recently, then there wasn’t far to go to drop them off!
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