If you love photography in all its forms and you happen to be or visit Barcelona, you can’t miss Valid Foto Gallery. Fernando Peracho founded it ten years ago to showcase both well-known and emergent artists working behind the lens. And together with Bertie, who was introduced to the place because of an Erasmus programme, they opened Valid World Hall, a polyvalent place a year ago where exhibitions, concerts, markets, press conferences, and any other kind of event you can think of. 
Located next to Parc de la Ciutadella, in Barcelona’s neighbourhood El Born, the gallery and event venue have become a key reference for anyone living in the Mediterranean city. It’s held exhibitions by renowned artists such as Josef Hoflehner, Masao Yamamoto and Gilbert Garcin, as well as others considered less orthodox, like our presentation of METAL Nº 37. But because of their passion, Fernando and Bertie wanted to offer a wider range of possibilities, they founded a new venue next door that can become whatever they – or the clients, mainly – want. Today we speak with them about their journey, photography and its current state – both artistically and commercially –
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First of all, who are the people behind Valid Foto and Valid World Hall? Could you please give us a hint on who you are, where do you come from, and how did you end up in Barcelona?
The founder and director of Valid World Hall is Fernando Peracho, who is from Barcelona and decided, ten years ago, to dedicate all his time and energy to promote photography as an art. And Bertie is the director of the new hall. Originally Hungarian, Bertie came into the picture through an Erasmus programme, which she spent at the gallery. On the first day, we started a conversation and haven’t finished it since. Few months later, we decided to extend the existing gallery and create things that we are both passionate about. Toni Morales joined us to strengthen our team and he is now helping with the business strategy.
Tell us about the origins of each space.
The gallery opened its doors almost ten years ago with the aim to support photography and show this wonderful art genre to the local and the international public of Barcelona. I believe these past ten years of hard work and the wonderful exhibitions we’ve held have turned it into a reference point in the world of photography. Valid World Hall, on the other hand, is a new space, opened one year ago. It is a white box that can be filled with all sorts of cultural initiatives. The great thing is that one day it functions as a gallery, the next day as a concert room, and few days later as a conference room about art.
Which are the main differences between both spaces? And what are the similarities?
Photography is very much appreciated at both spaces. However, while the photo gallery is aiming to promote a more classical aesthetic – and in the past ten years has won a well deserved respect amongst photo lovers –, at Valid World Hall we can host a wide variety of cultural events, not only photographic. We have created a white box venue with plenty of natural daylight that can transform into absolutely anything: a gallery, a catwalk, a press conference or a brand event. We have organized many different events: from Christmas markets to classical concerts and, of course, exhibitions. That is what inspired our slogan: “A place where everything is possible”. The similarities are that at both spaces we aim for quality and we do things with a lot of passion.
Valid Foto, as its own name reveals, is a photography-focused art gallery in which only this medium is exhibited. What are the reasons behind this decision?
The contemporary art world is very wide and when we decided to open Valid, it was our aim to give a high-quality service to our clients, which was possible by specializing in something. And last but not least, photography is our passion.
When did you first know you fell in love with photography, and what makes it so unique and appealing to you?
Fernando: When I was studying Fine Arts, my favourite professor was talking about Arnold Newman, and that was the day I knew I would be involved with photography. Later, I organized an exhibition of his works.
Bertie: I am from Budapest, and Hungary is a country with a great photographic tradition. There is much more to Brassaï, Capa, Moholy-Nagy, Kertesz and Munkacsi. The amazing Mai Mano House was, for years, my regular place. Since then, I am in love with photography.
Photography in itself can cover a very wide range of topics, styles, and formats. So, in addition to being photographers, what other qualities do you look for when selecting artists to represent or to exhibit?
We look for originality and quality. Works that talk to us and works that we would also buy for our personal collection. Works that have a universal message.
Tell us five photographers whose work we should be following, and why do you think they’re great.
Michael Kenna, Pentti Samalathi, Masao Yamamoto, Alvaro Sanchez Montañez, and Albarrán Cabrera. The first three are well-known authors and we admire their work. Alvaro and Albarrán Cabrera are an emerging collaborative duo and we absolutely believe  they have a very bright career ahead. They are very close to our heart, as they have started to spread their wings at our gallery.
Nowadays, almost everyone owns a phone with a rather good camera and the rise of visual social media seems to have turned everyone into a photographer. What’s your opinion on that matter? Is it a positive thing that we can explore and experiment with the creation of images, or does it discredit professional photographers?
Today, the visual language of an average person is much better than it was, let’s say, forty years ago. This has a positive effect, which means we are more selective and there is a greater challenge out there to search for originality. This naturally improves the quality. But still, not everyone can use cameras nor has talent.
Staying on the topic, some people undervalue photographers’ work and think that, for example, they can ask a professional to cover an event and take pictures without even paying. They think of photography more as a hobby than as a profession. What solutions can you think about to solve, or at least minimize, the effect of this? Is this something you’ve discussed with some of the artists you’ve work with?
Yes, of course we have heard of it, but we don’t think we can give a solution to this. If we say that photographers should refuse these kind of offers, maybe they lose out on opportunities to be seen and get a valued job later. Many photographers who’re currently famous worked at low-paid jobs until they got the real opportunity. From our side, we try to help the situation by believing in photographers who chose it as a career, and we give them the opportunity to show their talent.
Also, because of this misconception between photography as a profession and photography as a hobby (and because of other reasons, too), pictures have a difficult time commercially speaking. Have you ever felt that people are more reticent to purchasing photographs than, let’s say, paintings? What are the pros and cons of commercializing fine art photography?
Well, just recently, we came back from an art conference. The international sales statistics show that photography is becoming more and more powerful, so there is hope. But it is true that it takes a lot of effort to get to this level. We work with well-established artists and it is easier to sell, but to get to this level implies a lot of effort. For these up-and-coming artists, we have invented photo contests where they can show their talent and get the opportunity to exhibit.
Let’s talk about your venues again. Without saying names, what is the craziest, coolest or most remarkable event you’ve hosted, and what made it so special?
Well, we had many interesting exhibitions and events last year. One of our favourites was by a magazine, in which past iconic fashion images as well as paintings or artworks were recreated; it was a very interesting one. Then, the Netflix series pop-up was a super success. And, of course, I would like to mention the exhibition of a world famous photographer, where we recreated the images in form of installations and the visitors could become part of it.
What are your plans for the future? Where do you see both Valid Foto and Valid Hall in the years to come?
We really believe in talent and we have to show the latest tendencies in photography. So, to all talents: Barcelona International Photography Awards are coming from the 22nd of February. You have the opportunity to show your talent and the winners will have the chance to exhibit their works at the gallery. Grab the opportunity! Regarding the future, we hope that Valid will grow as a reference point in the cultural life of Barcelona and that we will have the power to surprise the public many times.
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