So many inspiring projects at MediaStorm and so many of them related to some extend to current cultural, political, historical and artistic issues all around the world. Everything seems to be interconnected. "The Marlboro Marine" by Luis Sinco document the assault of Fallouja and the struggle of Marine Lance Corporal James Blake Miller´s life at home after returning from Iraq. This is exactly the same story I just watched last weekend in my local cinema. The film is called "In the Valley of Elah" and explores the experiences of a bunch of soldiers dealing with depression and trying to adjust to their previous lifes. "Ivory Wars: Last Stand in Zakuoma" by J. Michael Fay and Michael Nichols portrays the constant dangers suffered by big concentrations of elephants, crocodriles and baboons in Zakouma National Park in Chad and the risky routines of armed guards fighting against pouchers. Surprisingly I saw just before Christmas some beautiful portraits of these animals taken by automatic devices at the Wildlife Photo Exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London. "The Ninth Floor " by Jessica Dimmock inevitabily reminded me of Nan Goldin´s intimate body of work and "Rape of a Nation" by Marcus Bleasdale revisited places I have been travelling through in search of adventures. Finally, "Evidence of My Existence" by Jim Lo Scalzo is a visual personal diary of a photojournalist constantly on the move trying to find the balance between obsessive work and private life. This is something I thought about a lot when I decided to enrol in this course and this is something I guess all of us somehow can relate to and have to deal with almost every day.
First assignment of the course and I am still thinking the best way to approach the potential subjects. I don't have plenty of time to try out different possibilities and I am suppose to choose a subject that interests me. Living in London give a lot of chances to find something meaningful, interesting, unusual. Time is slowly running out and I have to organize in advance my timetable to be able to walk around the streets and research some ideas while keeping in mind that I have other commitments for the next couple of weeks. Work to a deadline is stressful and exciting at the same time. I thought first about having a chat with the scaffolding workers at Instituto Cervantes and find out if they would allow me to shoot some pictures, but Health and Safety laws in this country are strict and I may have to wear a helmet and tie myself up with ropes for security reasons. Going to see how other workers cut and load big pieces of cows at the meat market in Farringdon sounds like a potentially excellent visual situation, but I know it has been done a few times before. It seems to me that visiting some hairdressers working hectic long hours at the salon around the corner could be as visually dramatic and expressive and definitely a safer bet.
Photography is about all sorts of things: time, places, journeys, memory, nostalgia, private lives and public histories. Ant this is exactly what does best Steve McCurry. He is one of my favourite photographers because in his books everything is told through people living their every day experiences of pain and joy. "The Path to Buddha. A Tibetan Pilgrimage" displays the beauty of the lives of religious monks and farmers travelling to holy sites together with sections of portraits of this proud and dignified people. The images capture an intimate insight of unique and exceptional individuals without effort. The photographer engage with the models of his aestheticly perfect pictures with intensity and curiosity. I have been trying to capture the essence of his work while taking pictures in Tibet before I even knew about him.
One of the story proposals I was thinking about while preparing the interview to be able to do this course, is exactly the same as Darren Almond's work "Fire under Snow" at Parasol Unit in London. Men harvesting sulphur from inside the crater of a volcano called Kawah Ijen in Java and breathing in the acid smoke. After breaking up the mineral they carry the chunks over the crater rim and down to the weighting station in two baskets slung from a pole balanced on one shoulder. This is definitely not the first time this appalling job has been exposed to a wider audience. Tourist like myself have often been here and there are films on YouTube, but it is still shocking, overwhelming and fascinating at the same time. As soon as the photographer stops recording, the workers will turn around and walk up and down the volcano again. The images have no comment and don't tell us what to think or feel about the injustices of the world. There is a second installation on the show called "In the Between" about Buddhist monks chanting in the oldest monastery in Lhasa together with images of the new fast train speeding across the plains of Tibet. These images point out the importance of ambivalence and ambiguity in creative works when recording the complexity of being in the world. Sometimes the photographer intend one thing and end up with another.
I just worked out today that I may be the only Spanish student doing this course, so I thought I should share with the rest of my virtual classmates some of the reading and seeing I have come across during the last holidays in my country. First of all and highly recommended is "Beats of a shocked world" ( "Latidos de un mundo convulso" ), an exhibition hosted by Obra Social Caja Madrid and curated by Sandra Basells that shows a variety of conflictive scenes from over the last 30 years. Highly respected Spanish photographers like Carmen Garcia Rodero, Kim Manresa, Javier Bauluz, Enric Marti, Paco Elvira and Santiago Lyon are brought together thanks to this documentary photography project which offers a compromising look at a range of dramatic situations of war, injustice and misery. The main objective of this exhibition is to emphasize the symbolic function of photography as an instrument capable of raising awareness and transforming lives. Another surprisingly impressive discovery from Spanish newspaper El Pais are the pictures of Italian phothographer Giorgia Fiorio featuring the article "What the human being believe in?" by Luis Miguel Ariza. Black and white pictures show universal people's desire to communicate with gods in places like the banks of the river Ganges in Varanasi (India), the cathedral of Saint Gabriel in Lalibela (Ethiopia), the village of Saint Peter Cutud (Philippines), the waterfall of Saut d'Eau (Haiti) and the summit of Mount Kyaikto in Myanmar. The photographer displays through her images testimonies of people having all kind of mistical experiences described as a form of primitive conciousness deeper than the intelectual level provided by education and tradition. And finally Cervantes Institute, the organization I am working for at the moment, shows " Vidas Minadas", an excellent exhibition by Spanish photographer Gervasio Sanchez about the personal story of victims of mines in countries like Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia, Colombia and Irak.
One of my earliest dreams involved travelling to far off lands where I could experience the lives of others, capture the moments of their everyday life and tell their stories through memories and images. I was then about six years old and I found myself in a small university town in the middle of Spain. After reading all the adventures of other people, I decided the best way out was to study Literature in Salamanca. I started working as a lecturer in different parts of the world and my job finally brought me to London, where I had my first real opportunity of proving to myself that I could live my dream. I eventually saved my last penny and went on a one year expedition to some of the most remote corners of the world. I bought the best camera I could afford unaware that from now my perception of reality would come primarily through my pictures. India, Nepal, Vietnam, Indonesia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and London again ready to learn. Tibet was probably the most harsh and colourful country of them all at the same time, and I had the luck and privilege to witness the Summer Festival with the kids riding horses and the old men walking miles to see them.
I was born in a small university town called Salamanca in the middle of Spain in 1968. It was almost unavoidable for me to study a Degree in Literature and Linguistics in my hometown and then I started travelling and working as a lecturer through the years until I landed in London and somehow my life changed.
For the last eight years I have been working at Cervantes Institute, a public institution from the Spanish Government that was founded in 1991 to promote Spanish language teaching and culture of Spanish-speaking countries throughout the world.
After having completed an MA in Cultural and Creative Industries at King's College London in 2005, my professional ambitions and interests started to shift. I undertook different projects of academic research about the Tourism Industry and then I went off travelling again to see everything I was reading about through the lens of my camera.
Since my last return to London, I have been teaching and helping to organize different exhibitions, conferences and Film festivals at Cervantes Institute in London.