Bullfighters: neither heroes nor villains.
Times are changing in Spain: heroes become villains, bulls become martyrs of a growing animalist movement that fights against some of the most powerful traditions that, currently, and against all odds, are cornered and endangered. Those who until very recently proclaimed themselves owners of this country are trapped in the bullrings where they continue to celebrate their “fiesta nacional”, with one eye set on the bullring and the other on the streets, fearful of a country where their discourse doesn’t find much room any longer.
They grew up like heroic members of a special caste in Spanish society. Icons of value and honor, keepers of tradition, ambassadors of a country’s culture that turns its back on them as the first generation of Spaniards born within the European Union shows no appreciation for this kind of display.
Prohibitionist positions are working their way up in Parliament while some town councils already decided to forbid or withdraw support to bullfighting. The controversy is on the streets, where pro-bullfighting are in a very hard position as they hold on to customs and ceremonies that are leading them to their own destruction.
Entering a bullring today is like travelling back in time to a world where life is not the supreme value; where fear, blood and death are the stage companions of actors for whom their character is a way of life.
The first time I went to a bullfight I was working for a newspaper. I remember it as a quite an unpleasant experience whose memory has been modulated throughout the more than 10 years where my job has taken me over and over to the bullring. I must be one of the non-aficionado to bullfighting who has spent more time at the ring.
Throughout this time I’ve seen two main approaches to bullfighting photography: specialized photographers, whose images show the bullfighting technique with a correctness both aseptic and impeccable; in general terms, their focus is on the pursuit of esthetic perfection, the creation of an icon. On the other hand, photographers who are dazzled by the show’s violence and focus on bearing witness to the suffering, isolating it from the global vision that supports the show.
As I try to avoid any bias and follow the code of ethics of photojournalism, I feel capable to sit on the fence with enough impartiality to overcome the barrier of judgment and capture the world of bullfighting in its purest state.
About my work
The hard summer sunlight in Spain at the hottest hour makes the matador’s outfit glitter, highlighting the textures and darkening the shadows until they become black holes. Saturated and pure colors mix with sharp and dry odors to create the score on which a complex and old ritual that I expect to capture with the utmost detail working at a slow pace unlike I usually do.
Getting away from the headlines to get in touch with what is both permanent and eternal: the man in the matador’s outfit is a naked one who faces the primeval emotions that have overwhelmed human beings from all cultures and civilizations from the dawn of time: fear, death, honor, shame, glory... taboos that are shown in such an evident and close way that irritate the senses, triggering the most extreme reactions.
The result of this work will be a collection of images with a high technical and human quality that manage to capture the visual riches and cultural memory of such a unique and special world. A work capturing tradition without fanaticism, pain without judgment, allowing viewers to enjoy beauty and be appalled by death in one of the most controversial “art expressions” existing around the world. A world that is about to disappear and that has a lot to show us about our darkest side and how we face it