In 1914 Kurt Hielscher went for a study trip to Spain. It was his second visit to the country. Due to the outbreak of the First World War, Kurt Hielscher was forced to stay. This event became his "Lebensschicksal", his fate. He stayed in neutral Spain for five years.
Kurt Hielscher decided to make the best of it. He wanted to thoroughly learn more about his beloved country by taking photographs. For him that meant to "wander, schauen, einatmen, fotografieren und durch das fotografieren noch tiefer hineinsehen", meaning to "achieve a better understanding of the land and its people through photography". He turned his photo collections into exhibitions and started to lecture about "The Unknown Spain".
Spain became Kurt Hielscher's big love during his unvoluntary five year stay due to the outbreak of WW I
My big love has always been the countries of the former Yugoslavia, but it was a visit in March 2019 to Andalucía and cities like Granada, Cordóba, Antequera and Ronda that made me decide to expand my photoproject to Spain and later also to the other countries where Kurt Hurt Hielscher made his photoalbums from as well.
Page 1 of Kurt Hielscher's first photoalbum: view on the Alhambra de Granada. I used the photo as a profilepic for my Facebookpage. This bell with the impressive Alhambra de Granada and the with snow covered Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance is the first photo of the first photobook of Kurt Hielscher. When I was there, in the Albaicín neigborhood, I did not find this belltower, but I knew I was close.
The copy of the book that I have in my possession is a 1922 edition (49-58 thousand press) has a 14 pages long foreword by Kurt Hielscher as an introduction to the photos. The book is dedicated to "Seiner Majestät König Alfons XIII von Spanien - In Grösster Ehrfurcht gewidmet" and contains 304 photos. King Alfonso was nicknamed "the Royal Knight of Charity" and received a nomination for the Nobel Peace Price in 1917 for his humanitarian work, but in the end it was the International Red Cross who won the price.
In June I went again and that time I went to Antequera again but also to Sevilla, some places in between and to the south all the way to Tarifa. In the summer of 2020 me and my family went to the north with the campervan of my parents to Basque Country and visited places like San Sebastián and then towards the east to Cantabria and the Picos de Europa.
Enjoying Playa de La Malagueta in Málaga with my family just before taking off back home by plane. Kurt Hielscher did not make photos in Málaga, the 11th of March 2019, my birthday by the way.
Selfie in Sevilla. Exploring the city by bike at night to check where some of the 14 photos Kurt Hielscher made here are situated so I knew where to go to make them the next day in broad daylight, 20th of June 2019.
Happy when I was able to achieve this extroardinary book from J.Agustín Núñez, a guide from Granada. In between 1987 and 1991 he managed to capture almost all photos Kurt Hielscher made in Spain during WWI.
Special attention for a special photobook. The book has been published by J.Agustín Núñez from Granada who already captured most of the photos Kurt Hielscher made in Spain. I heard about its existence from the grandson of Kurt Hielscher.
And there is a story to it as well.
On a morning in September 1986 a German tourist showed up in the King's Chapel in Granada, also a site photographed by Kurt Hielscher, with the Spain photobook of Kurt Hielscher under his arm. Mr.Núñez noticed the book and offered a price, which was refused by the tourist, Claus Bröcker. He had received his book from his granddad. He, in turn, got it from Kurt Hielscher himself, who he knew, not only in person, but he also had accompanied Kurt Hielscher on some of his travels according to the foreword of the book. Mr.Núñez asked for copies of photos in the book.
Months passed till Mr. Núñez in 1987 received a package from Hamburg with an original first edition. Bröcker had send a fax to all antique bookstores in Germany and found it for him.
"For me it was a challenge and a fascinating adventure", J.Agustín Núñez, 1991. So it is for me.
Mr.Núñez already was a photographer and familiar with old and modern techniques. He writes in the preface of his book about Kurt Hielscher's work: ".... but this book was different, simply the best of which I had ever seen before, and with a big gap to all the other".
He decided that "a work from this category deserved to be reissued in order to save it from oblivion".
It took Mr.Núñez four years, from 1987 till 1991, to capture most of the photos in the book of Kurt Hielscher and this extraordinary book is the result.
For me this book is a treasure and a spoiler at the same time, because it sometimes takes away the surprise of discovering the exact place where Kurt Hielscher made his photo. On the other hand it is also interesting to see the differences in between the now, thirty years ago and over a century ago. For me it is a comforting thought that also Mr.Núñez missed some places, mainly patio's as well, and I was not the only one looking for them like a needle in a haystack in several cities.