Photomuseum - Argazki Euskal Museoa arose from the merger of two collections of photographic equipment and images owned by Ramón Serras and Leopoldo Zugaza, who donated them for this purpose.
After taking the necessary steps and with the inestimable support of the Town Council of Zarautz, the Gipuzkoa Donostia Kutxa and other local agents, on 19 April 1992, the sponsors of the Photomuseum presented the exhibition: “Photomuseum. Esquema de un museo fotográfico (Photo museum, Plan for a Photographic Museum) in the Sanz Enea Kultur Etxea cultural centre in Zarautz”. Displaying the full-scale design of the future museum.
As well as this presentation, eight photographic exhibitions by acknowledged authors such as Walter Reuter, Raoul Ubac, Joan Fontcuberta, Gabriel Cualladó, Pere Formiguera, Cristina Zelich, Humberto Rivas and the Photographic Archive of the Kutxa. were organised in different venues in the town and as a complement, the film “Aproximación a W. Reuter, fotógrafo y cineasta en el exilio” was screened. This was the first edition of Argazki Bilera - Jornadas Fotográficas, which has become a regular feature of the museum’s exhibition programming and continues to fill exhibition venues in Zarautz every year.
Villa Manuela home of the Photomuseum
The Town Council of Zarautz agreed to dedicate the third, fourth and fifth floors of the Villa Manuela building, owned by the municipality, to establish the Photomuseum.
It was installed with the following layout:
3rd Floor: Administration, periodical library, library and temporary exhibition hall.
4th Floor: Permanent collection, in the following order: pre-photography, 19th century procedures, portraits, stereoscopy, the photo album, compact cameras, standard film stock (Photograms measuring 24 x 36 mm), enlargement, instant photography, disposable cameras, chronophotography, colour, projection, scientific use and digital photography.
5th Floor: Storage.
The temporary exhibition hall on the third floor was opened on 16 July 1993 with the exhibition “La tarjeta postal en Zarautz” (The postcard in Zarautz), postponing the opening of the permanent exhibition until 10 September of the same year.
The Photomuseum was structured on the following guidelines:
The technical process of photography was the central axis. I.e., offering the visitor an overview of the development of this art from pre-photography (chalcographic engraving, camera obscura, etc.) to current techniques.
It expressed, by means of photographs, testimonies of different styles or schools in which, throughout history, photography has manifested itself as an artistic product.
As well as technique and art, is also reflected the use of photography as a documentary instrument.
The location of the Photomuseum in Zarautz arose from two ideas. The first, more practical, was that this town was habitual residence of the sponsors of the museum, thus they expected to find greater support for the project. The second, more conceptual, was the intention of decentralising cultural services, providing cultural initiatives in relatively small municipalities.
In September 2003, after 10 years of hard cultural work, the Town Council of Zarautz decided to dedicate the whole Villa Manuela building to the museum and carry out its total refurbishment. While the work was in progress, the Photomuseum continued its exhibition activities in the municipal exhibition hall Torre Luzea and its administrative and research activities in Sanz Enea Kultur Etxea.
After the refurbishment of Villa Manuela
The refurbishment and adaptation of the Villa Manuela building implied renovation and enlargement of the museum’s discourse. It was reopened on November 8th 2005.
The permanent collection was subsequently enriched with photographic and cinematic collections deposited by the Diputación Foral de Gipuzkoa and Gipuzkoa Donostia Kutxa. This meant a small change in the name of the museum, which was now Photomuseum Argazki & Zinema Museoa.
The current structure of the museum is as follows:
4th Floor: Pre-photography and the search for image mobility. Library and offices.
3rd Floor: Photographic technique. From the Daguerreotype to digital photography.
2nd Floor: Photographic genres: Portrait, landscape, still life, anthropological photography, photography and the visual arts, and the manipulation of photography.
1st Floor: Uses of photography in graphic arts, science, graphic journalism, architecture and cinema. The incorporation of cinema material has led to the installation of a small projection room.
Ground Floor:Temporary exhibitions.
Since its opening, Photomuseum has done a lot of work, having presented more than 300 temporary exhibitions, both in its premises as well as in other local exhibition spaces. These have reflected photographic technique and art in all their aspects. Spanning different genres, techniques and artistic trends, from new artists to renowned photographers, from antique photography to experimental, all trends have been covered in the wide-ranging programme.
Publishing activities have also been important, with the publication of exhibition catalogues, visitors’’ guides, reading guides, etc. Among them we can highlight, for its didactic importance, the magazine Archivos de la Fotografía and the digital magazine Photoberriak.
Other cultural and educational organisations have collaborated, advised and supported students and researchers. We can highlight the holding of four History of Photography Congresses and the publication of their respective proceedings, thus contributing to the dissemination of numerous research projects.
In short, el Photomuseum fulfils the objectives set out in its articles of association: to acquire, preserve, research, communicate and exhibit testimonies related to photographic art for purposes of study, education and enjoyment.