Nineteenth century planet vs. today's planet, in pictures

ACCIONA & PhotoEspaña are committed in this exhibition to artistic dialogue as a reflection on the role of human beings in relation to nature.



Landscape photography is an important tribute to the impressive and valuable wealth of our planet: the analysis of the relationship between man and nature and the perspective that photographs have offered of this relationship throughout history are of great help in enabling us to rediscover new ways of perceiving the world. 

The challenge facing both the 21st century and ACCIONA is sustaining and conserving our natural heritage. We therefore need to emphasise the personal and subjective perspectives brought by photographic work, which is a real driver in helping us understand and value our relationship with the environment.

At ACCIONA, we are committed to sustainability and through this collaboration, we can highlight the importance of maintaining natural resources and raise awareness of the important role humans play when it comes to nature.

In this edition we are collaborating with PHotoESPAÑA and have the enormous privilege of being allowed access to Spain's Patrimonio Nacional (National Heritage) Royal Collections preserved by the General Archive of the Palace and the Royal Library of the Royal Palace of Madrid, in which all historical photographic material belonging to the Patrimonio Nacional is preserved and studied, including central figures of 19th century European photography, such as W. Atkinson, P. Nadar, J. Laurent, C. Clifford and Woodbury and Page. Much of the archive is due to Isabel II's interest in photography. She was the one who encouraged the creation of these valuable collections documenting 19th-century life.



The depiction of nature captured by these artists caught our attention because although capturing this was not the main purpose of their travels, as they were usually travelling to photograph public works or cultural events, this depiction of nature is always unavoidably present in their works.

The main subjects are wild places, such as forests, mountains, seas and infinite oceans. Recalling Edmund Burke's notion of the sublime, addressed in his treatise "A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful", this concept accounts for our relationship with nature and our feeling small in relation to its vast immensity. These artists certainly approached nature through the picturesque and sublime.

We thought it would be interesting to discuss these 19th-century images alongside the work of Sebastião Salgado, winner of the 1998 Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts, where he demonstrates this aspect of sublime, unknown and untouched nature. From the start of his Genesis exhibition work in 2004, to his most recent book Amazônia, the Brazilian photographer has captured the untouched aspects of nature.

His photographs are a visual ode to how majestic and fragile the Earth is but at the same time are also a warning that we run the risk of losing it. His vision is far from being an "objective" or "neutral" way of photographing natural environments. All of his work constantly appeals to the sublime, to that dark place of the human soul where the most terrible qualities meet beauty.


Date: June 2 – September 4

Location: Geneva Rooms of the Royal Palace of Madrid

Hours: M-S 10h-19h / Sunday 10h-16h

More information on PHotoEspaña’ s website: