Rosa Olivares, from “100 Spanish Photographers” (Exit, Madrid, 2005):
"Through his work in the press he defined a new way of doing photojournalism. The new approaches to documentary photography and by extension press photography have evolved on the one hand through the use of color and the new technologies, and on the other through a greater cultural awareness and closer connections to fine art photography. Navia is one of the maximum exponents of this evolution in Spain.
He has been a professional photographer since 1974, having worked for a long period of time for press agencies and periodic publications, though in the late 90s he entered into a more independent relationship with them and began producing work more focused
on his own interests. Having earned a B.A. in Philosophy and very keen on anthropology, literature is what finally set his creative course, especially through the continuous journeys he was to take around Spain, Portugal, several African and Latin American countries, subjectively guided by the writings of native authors.
His interest in the places, peoples, traditions and ways of life goes beyond the typical classic portrait, which is either touristy or dramatic, to take on a human approach, leaving aside an excess of dramatics and continual references to local topics. The way of approaching the people and the places Navia visits is established through narration. Every project, every report, tells a story in a language in which literature establishes the narrative canon.
The use of color, which since 1983 took the place of black-and-white, is symptomatic of this link to literary creation, for it is more conditioned by the photographer's storyline than by the characteristic stereotypes of the places.
Rather than the blinding light of the tropics, he chooses the darkness of night lit by a television screen, the warm light of a lamp, or the headlights of a car. Likewise, the people portrayed are narrative elements of a story whose protagonist is the narration itself, the image that evokes and redirects the memory and imagination of the beholder."
Julio Llamazares “The tin of Quince Jelly”, preface of the monograph “Navia” in the book series PhotoBolsillo, 2001:
“In a corner of his memory, there is a tin of quince jelly that was destined to leave an indelible mark on Navia’s life. That tin, wich he still has, is decorated with a Venetian gondola scene. In it is where his grandmother, Ana, kept the family photographs. On long winter afternoons, Navia would look at pictures of himself and his ancestors, fascinated, as we children were by photographs back in those days, by what he was seeing. […]
Without making any big fuss about it, he strides forward with his tiny Leica and travel journals (unlike other photographers, Navia has a markedly literary bent) building up his personal photographic praxis by sunning prevailing fashions and facile categorisation, as the reader can observe in this book. He takes his cue from a line by the contemporary poet José Hierro: “Spare me all the exotic bits. Just show me where the Romans marched, and that’s where I want to go”. Navia takes this idea and personalises it in his terms: “I always like to go where my ancestors have been” and urging that has led him to just about every far corner of Spain and Portugal and other regions where Iberian or Latin culture has left its imprint.
In the end, after so many images, after so many trips to every part of the world, Navia can look back on a body of work with ample good reason for supposiong that it has all been worthwhile. Because the yungster from La Prosperidad [neighborhood of Madrid] has become one of our most respected photographers, and, what to him is more important, a photographer who is unlike any other. That is why, just as Granny Ana did with the family photos, he can turn to the photos he has taken from the tin of life while simultaneously topping it up with new ones, the tin of quince jelly that is the photographer’s life, and, in de final analysis, everyone else’s life as well.”
Augusto Roa Bastos, Paraguayan writer:
"Fate often offers happy coincidences. For example, between writing and images, between literature and photography. Fate can only be called fate because we do not know its laws of strict determinism.
Just as my novel does not aspire to reflect the exclusively local or picturesque colour of these geographical, human, historical and social scenarios, but the deep mystery of local essences which always seems about to be revealed, Navia's beautiful photographs, also austere and stripped, do not aspire to show the unusual or purely spectacular aspect of the scenarios he chooses and captures, but instead some of the features that characterise and synthesise Latin America's landscape, history and society.
He takes a very clear position in his photographs in regard to the inconsistencies of our contemporary history, which I believe affect all of Latin America, Spain included. One cannot help but salute his good judgement and support."
Publio López Mondéjar, Academic and Historian, from "Ten Views” (SEEI/Lunwerg, Madrid, 2005):
"Navia (Madrid, 1957) Is one of the most brilliant representatives of new Spanish photography. One of those who, with the greatest of efforts and dedication, has refined the tools of his own language, in a tenacious search for the greatest expressive efficiency and precision. Navia combines an extensive culture and an overwhelming common sense with an elaborate technical knowledge, which has made him a true master of colour. In closeup, his pictures are increasingly finding their way into the twists and turns of literature, one of the languages most solidly rooted in his work’s narrative vocation. This is increasingly present in his pictures, whose sobriety and apparent simplicity are but the expression of their serene perfection."