Mikel Bastida

Book Review Mikel Bastida – Anarene

© Mikel Bastida

Anarene”, by Spanish photographer Mikel Bastida poetically explores the profound impact of cinematic narratives on shaping the US’ physical landscapes and realities.

─── by Josh Bright, January 9, 2024
  • Born in Bilbao in 1982, Bastida has long had a deep interest in history and cinema, both of which served as inspiration for his debut monograph.

    Color documentary photography by Mikel Bastida. From the book "Anarene". Sillouhette of man in a hat with yellow blinds in the background.

    “Anarene” refers to the North Texan town featured in Peter Bogdanovich’s 1971 film adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s novel, “The Last Picture Show”. Bogdanovich’s black-and-white masterpiece portrays a group of teenagers as they come of age during the early 1950s, in a town that is declining both culturally and economically

    Color documentary photography by Mikel Bastida. From the book "Anarene". Green wooden houses.

    Anarene was a real place, or at least it was. Established in 1908 from a small Texan settlement from the previous century, the town all but disappeared by the middle of the 21st century, dealt its final blow when the railway stopped passing through in the early 1950s. Bogdanovich shot his masterpiece in Archer City. Situated just 8 miles south of where Anarene once stood, it became the embodiment of the now ghost town, decades before it disappeared.

    Color documentary photography by Mikel Bastida. From the book "Anarene". Tattooed hand on book.
    Color documentary photography by Mikel Bastida. From the book "Anarene". Man in red shirt with black tie

    Using this as a starting point, Bastida spent 8 years documenting the places ‘that cinema has left behind’—towns, streets, or edifices immortalized on the big screen. Now, seemingly frozen in time, they symbolize an America that once was but, in many ways, still exists outside of the cosmopolitan, more urbanized, thriving areas of the country. 

    Color documentary photography by Mikel Bastida. From the book "Anarene".

    “Anarene”, depicts individuals and forgotten objects whose stories endure on the periphery, trapped in a time and space taken from them. People and places that linger long after cameras depart, abandoned both figuratively and literally. Beautifully presented in high-quality prints and complemented by compelling anecdotes from Bastida, the medium-format images are raw, yet simultaneously sensitive and beautiful: portraying people and places as they are—real. human.

    Color portrait photography by Mikel Bastida. Red building.
    Color portrait photography by Mikel Bastida. Girl with bright red hair in water.

    The images reveal an America ravaged by its narrative—a country consumed by its own legend. Scenery transforms into a testament to film’s influence, narrating tales of seemingly insignificant locations valued not for what they are but for their historical relevance.

    Color documentary photography by Mikel Bastida. Car at night

    In his beautifully written essay that concludes the book, Eduardo Momene writes: “Perhaps everything in American cinema and photography is poetry, where all that’s real about the world is merely raw material for building the fiction—that imposture—which expresses the experience for which words—those of the prosaic world—do not serve.”

    What Bastida has accomplished in “Anarene” is giving worth to these locations beyond their role as mere movie backdrops and acknowledging the people who inhabit them. It’s a powerful and captivating piece of visual storytelling, carrying the same melancholic essence as Bogdanovich’s film—a homage to an America living amidst the wreckage of its own idealized image.


    All images © Mikel Bastida courtesy of Editorial RM

    Anarene is co-published by Editorial RM & Comunidad de Madrid and is available here.