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Pilar Irala Hortal

GUA: Judge Dra. Pilar Irala-Hortal

Tell us a bit about yourself and your work?

I am an only child. My father is an engineer, and my mother never finished her basic studies, because at the age of 7 she had to work to help her family in the hard years after the end of the Spanish Civil War. My parents have never put any limitations on me, neither in sport nor in what I could do in life.

Thanks to my mother's influence, I learned the importance of helping each other and valuing what each of us is, which led me to become interested in the art forms of each culture as a means of communication. So, I naturally moved into an academic career, not without first working in private enterprise, but my vocation for education and research brought me back to the university. For several years now I have taught at the San Jorge University (Zaragoza, Spain) where I also have the responsibility of directing a historical photographic legacy that belongs to the university (the Jalón Ángel Archive).

What inspired you to enter Higher Education?

My mother has always insisted, from a very young age, that studying would allow me to have a career and be independent. That was my mother's constant message to me: to be independent and never depend on anyone.

My father always encouraged me to study whatever I wanted and in fact he encouraged me to study engineering like him at a time when girls were not told about the possibility of developing in certain professions.

My philosophy teacher in secondary school was a great influence in helping me to discover where I wanted to go in my studies. Finally, I enrolled in Art History studies, which combine the disciplines of History, Art, Aesthetics, Urbanism, Philosophy, Conservation, Cultural Heritage and so many other disciplines that intersect in studies that are both modern and traditional at the same time.

What accomplishments are you most proud of in your career?

There are several achievements or milestones of which I am proud of.

In the field of teaching, I have seen students come to my classes at the age of 18 and experience university for the first time, and a few years later see them become renowned professionals and win awards in their fields of work both nationally and internationally. This has happened to me several times in the field of teaching photography. In addition, I really enjoy teaching Modern Art because the first few weeks of class the students reject almost all of it, but in the end, I have seen radical changes including some students who have gone from not understanding Modern Art to getting a tattoo of a work by Duchamp.

In the area of Cultural Heritage management, specifically my responsibility as director of the Jalón Ángel Archive, we have worked very hard to disseminate the work of this magnificent photographer of the mid-twentieth century, we now have an international photography award with a great reception, international exhibitions and a collection of books.

It is undoubtedly one of the most important challenges and achievements of my career so far.

As a reflection on the IWD I would like to call the attention of girls, young women, and adult women to keep defending our rights and to keep fighting for a real and effective equality that is still far away. And to boys, young boys, and adult men I ask you to get involved with us in the fight for this necessary change.

Their support in their daily lives, in their jobs, in their daily decisions, in political and cultural decisions, is a sine qua non condition for achieving real equality.

Building a just society involves all of us in every daily detail. In this sense I have two very close examples thanks to whom I have had the support for the necessary push in every phase of my life. My father, who always spoke to me in terms of preferences, hopes, and responsibilities, and never in terms of gender. And my husband, who has taught me the importance of differentiating issues such as "helping" and "co-responsibility".

Pilar Irala BIO:

Professor at the Universidad San Jorge, curator, art critic and photographer. She holds a PhD in Art History and Musicology (2004) and a PhD in Communication (2020). She is an expert in Art and Visual Culture, and in the relationship between journalism, photography, rhetoric and visual narrative, a line of research in which she has conceptualized the theoretical framework called the Barthes syndrome in her book El Síndrome de Barthes. La construcción retórica de la imagen fotográfica (Fragua, 2019)].

She also researches on historical-photographic heritage and new technologies. Since 2011 managing the Jalón Ángel Photographic Archive she researches on the figure of the photographer having curated several exhibitions on his work inside and outside Spain. She has also published the monograph Jalón Ángel (1898-1976). Más allá del fotógrafo (Tirant lo Blanch, 2022). In 2018 she was elected member of the governing board of EUROPEANA, the European digital library promoted by the European Union, and in 2019 member of the Steering Committee of the International Consortium for Photographic Heritage (PHOTOCONSORTIUM).

She is the author of dozens of publications in indexed journals and specialized monographs, has curated national and international exhibitions of photojournalism. Some of the exhibitions she has curated are: Iron Kids, with photographs by photojournalist Diego Ibarra-Sánchez (Córdoba Photography Biennial, 2019); Jalón Ángel: photographer, traveler and promoter of education (Dominican Republic, Embassy of Spain and AECI); the annual exhibition Cazadores de Imágenes (years 2014 to 2023) and Los desastres de las Guerras (Fundación Ibercaja, 2023) with works by Goya, Diego Ibarra and Judith Prat.

She has also been a researcher at prestigious foreign academic institutions such as the Kunshistoriche Institut (Florence), the Universitá degli Studi di Firenze (Florence), the European Institute of the London School of Economics and Political Science (2002-2003) and the Centre for Visual Studies at the University of Sheffield and has been a visiting lecturer with the Erasmus+ program at the Università degli Studi di Ferrara and the Universidade de Lisboa. She is also a researcher at the Aragonese Observatory of Art in the Public Sphere (OAAEP) (University of Zaragoza), a "reference" research group according to the nomenclature of recognition of the Government of Aragon. She is PI of the research group Visiones Interdisciplinares sobre el Patrimonio (Universidad San Jorge).