Everyday superheroes honored

Palau Robert hangs portraits of Alternative Nobel winners

Two of the 29 heroes photographed by Katharina Mouratidi on show at the Palau Robert
Two of the 29 heroes photographed by Katharina Mouratidi on show at the Palau RobertK. Mouratidi

They can't fly, they don't have X-ray vision and they're not invulnerable. They are a group of superheroes who, without tights or special powers, are all struggling to make the world a better place, and the Palau Robert in Barcelona is paying tribute to them in its latest exhibition .

Herois en l'ombra (Heroes in the shadows) introduces the faces of 29 people whose work fighting poverty, hunger or environmental destruction has been recognized with the Right Livelihood Award, often known as the Alternative Nobel, which has been handed out in parallel with the Swedish Academy's official prizes since 1980.

"In our society music stars, actors and politicians are famous, but the people who have invented ideas that have improved the world are barely known," says Katharina Mouratidi, the German photographer behind the portraits. The exhibition, which has been organized as part of the Circuit photojournalism festival, is the result of two years' work by Mouratidi, who traveled round half of Europe with her mobile studio taking the photos. The results are simple portraits of men and women of diverse ethnicities and ages offering slight smiles, whose informal dress contrasts with the luxurious red and golden armchair on which they are seated.

Those represented are just some of the 160 people and organizations who have received the Right Livelihood Award, which was founded by the Swedish writer and politician Jakob von Uexkull when he realized that the traditional Nobel Prize had no room to recognize the fight against poverty or environmental conservation.

Looking at the portrait of the affable-looking old woman dressed in a pink blouse and cardigan, you would never be able to predict that she was the victor in a battle with a genetically modified crop multinational. Or that the beaming short-haired woman had been imprisoned more than 100 times in her fight for nuclear disarmament in the UK. In order to discover their deeds, you have to look at the biography hung next to the portraits - which is exactly how Mouratidi wanted it. "For me it was important to show them as simple people, like you or I," she says. And therein lies the key idea hidden by the simplicity of these images: that you don't need extraordinary powers to change the world.

Herois en l'ombra. Until September 1 at Palau Robert, Centre d'Informació de Catalunya, Passeig de Gràcia, 107, Barcelona. www20.gencat.cat/portal/site/PalauRobert

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