„Canfranc – Today and Tomorrow“

For several years both friends and professional photographers are working on this project – whether it is finished, we really do not know. Meeting the time the original project took, the „International Railway Station of Canfranc“ as it is still known today, will be difficult – from inital plans to the inauguration 70 years passed by.

In 1853 the idea was born for the railway station – in terms of becoming the fastest connection between Madrid and Paris. In 1928 the inauguration, with the king of Spain and the president of France present, took place – on the outskirts of the Pyrenees, in the middle of the countryside, the dimension of which would have been striking for any metropol throughout Europe. In 1996, when the first pictures were taken as part of this photographic project, the railway station already had become meaningless for several centuries. What happened?

Personal overestimation, cronyism, sabotage and misplanning were reported. In addition came practical and comprehensible problems, e.g. different widths of french and spanish railway tracks which conditioned passengers to change trains and goods to be moved. In the long run the connection appeared to be unprofitable for carrying companies. Temporal and financial advantages in opposition to the 100 km long route along the Atlantic or the Mediterranean became defeated. Hence today this railway station is a testimony of keen size and megalomania for sure – and of decay of a European vision only.

Now for the pictures by Stefan Gregor and Matthias Maas. Being a photographer myself talking about them is more natural than talking about history and geography.

For once let us start on the subject of a „railway station“ – a place to meet, welcome and say good-bye, gate to foreign countries, multiculture, in one word: life. Altogether things which are associated with this term. Altogether things which are almost not found in these pictures (apart from some exceptions).

Let us approach it from a more „photographic point of view“:

Matthias Maas has built himself a very good reputation being a photographer of architecture. This type of photographer belongs to those admireable enthusiasts, who spend most of the time travelling with heavy luggage and lots of patience, spending the best part of their time below a big, black cloth, concentrating on a diffusing screen picture, which alwas is too dark and turned upside down, probably praying for the ray of light which will brighten up everything and bring into it colour, form and spirit, a well-balanced, harmonic and exciting composition. Good photography of architecture actually can be able to do this – and Matthias Maas knows how.

In this project he does it by consequentially using black and white material, concentrating on form and structure, finally wrapping it in a nostalgic bow towards great architecture. Usually the customers of photographers of architecture are publishing companies, city councils, architects and building owners, who, filled with pride, want to have their constructions presented. But: today nobody is proud on the „International Railway Station of Canfranc“.

Now for Stefan Gregor: being a picture journalist, he is the one to take a pioture of the moment most important, at the right time, place and with the right lens and camera. Photography in journalism and reportage: only these terms already contain the way of a process, change or up-to-dateness and tempo as well. Considering this Stefan Gregor did not make it for Canfranc, he came far too late to be at least somehow in time: at the „International railway station of Canfranc“ nothing is to be missed anymore.
But his pictures – what a joy! And Stefan Gregor‘s work shows that he as well must have enjoyed this calm time. The more so as this calmness did not blur his sharp eye for details, spirit of the moment and the fascination of transience. Now it seems we found all inconsistencies with respect to content and photography. Nevertheless the questions comes up: with what kind of pictures do we deal here?

Let us take a closer look:

History standing still, but still being noticable.
Architecture decaying, but still being noticable.
Life dying, but still being noticable.
The development of the railway station itself is tragic, hence:
pure emotion!

And this it is with what we are dealing here, with emotional pictures. And if you take your time and allow yourself to get away from it all, it can happen that some parts become cleared up, some stain and rubbish fanished. And some gifted with phantasy experienced to hear feet and voices of men with stiff collars and women wearting lang dresses with frills and broad hats, or they heard a wizzle or a ,‚shshshshsh…”.

Hence this „International Railway Station of Canfranc“ still is usefull: pictures of it are taken by Stefan Gregor and Matthias Maas in order to allow you to dream a little bit.

Enjoy! Have fun!

© Frank Freihofer

(Frank Freihofer – www.freihofer.com)