In Forcall, two surprising things happened to me

In Forcall, two surprising things happened to me. The first was meeting Pep Orti. Pep stopped me in the street, it was 9:00am and I had been taking shots of the small treasures I was discovering around the town. His invitation was direct: “if you like photography, perhaps you would like to photograph my museum”. After passing by the hotel for breakfast I quickly returned, I soon found myself inside a small premise on the street of with traditional town houses of this area.

Pep’s small museum had been created upon his father’s (Florenci Orti) initiative. A wide space with very high ceilings, and a dim and subtle light that encased each piece, different tools of all types and periods including traditional farming tools, which Florencio had been collecting and restoring throughout his entire life. Pep told me how the majority of the pieces exhibited there had arrived in his hands; through small exchanges and bartering with the neighbors in the area. A lifetime of compiling and restoring all sorts of tools traditionally used for slaughters, grapevine cultivation, transport, shoemaking, farming…



Florenci, now retired, is an espadrille expert as was his wife and parents. All of them created the traditional “espardeñas” (– a traditional canvas shoe with a hemp or jute sole secured to the foot by straps). These shoes, worn by all in Forcall and the rest of the region, were used for both parties and work. Pep continues and maintains this tradition, sporadically doing workshops for those interested in this shoemaking craft. That exact same weekend he had planned to do one, and had prepared all the material ready to receive his students who were each going to leave with a beautiful pair of espadrilles handcrafted by them.

The top part of the premises accommodates a very complete exhibition of tools used to treat the fibers and all other tasks carried out by an espadrille maker. Pep’s father’s, mother’s and grandmother’s work seats are all exhibited there, like a small display of espadrilles from different periods.

I left with a fantastic feeling, excited to see how someone had had the sensitivity to select, compile, and classify all those elements that had formed part of the work, culture and life of the town with so much care and attention. It is these little stories that are able to make me happy and give sense not only to one day but to a whole trip. These small stories are the ones that reach me deep inside and it also excites me to hear about the main characters in them.

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I leave you with some images that I captured while Pep explained to me, in full detail, the history of each and every piece displayed there upon his father, Florenci’s, initiative.

Many thanks to Florenci for compiling and ordering all these small testimonies of the life and work of his region, and also to Pep for maintaining, caring for, and spreading his legacy with so much careful attention.

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The Art of “Ronqueo”

One of the things that I wanted to do when I found out that I would be spending a few days in Cadiz, was to get up on day at the break of dawn and go down to the Barbate port to see the arrival of the boats with their fresh fish. Of course I could not leave the camera at home. One morning this August with the typical strong wind of the region blowing intensely, I equipped myself with all the necessary tools and presented myself in the port at 7:30am to live this peculiar moment at first hand.

I was hugely disappointed at the start; just this week the Barbate float happened to be in the sardine fishing grounds of Cadiz, which meant that those of Barbate were empty and without a single boat loaded with fish arriving to dock. It seemed that the day I had chosen wasn’t the best, however, as always when one isn’t expecting anything; you end up getting a pleasant surprise.

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And this is how it went, before long I was speaking with one of the people in charge of the port, he was explaining everything that was happening in a small corner of the port that had caught my attention, it was the only corner with any activity. There were ten seamen or so immersed in the only two activities that gave life to the port during those days: loading a boat with tons of fresh herrings for the bait of the 3000 tuna fish that are kept in the fattening and grow-out ponds close to the trap; the dismantling of this, in function since April 20th of this year, will happen next season in 2014.


Everything continued more or less the same as it had done 3000 years ago when the Phoenicians installed themselves in the region, giving start to the capturing of tuna fish that crossed from the Atlantic to spawn in the Mediterranean. The Phoenicians constructed the first factories dedicated to salting the tuna, creating a commercial route from these coasts, to transport the tuna captured and treated in Gadir (current Cadiz), across the entire Mediterranean.

They used amphorae made of mud that formed a two handled peak at the end; these were divided into various compartments on the inside. The base was for the salted fish, and in the higher parts there were different aromatic herbs and perfumes, which managed to eliminate the unpleasant odor during the long journey. The boats, loaded with sand beds in their cellars, sailed with the amphorae stuck over them in order to avoid the boat moving in dangerous seas throughout the duration of their long commercial journey.

The Phoenicians were the driving force behind a tradition and technique that lasted years after the Romans. These were the founders of the current Bolonia beach in the city of “Baelo Claudia”, where the main tuna treating factory of the Mediterranean may be found, still perfectly visible. There the tuna was cut up; they salted it in the great deposits dug out in the grounds, and with the deprivation and viscera of fish in the area, mainly of tuna, it was macerated in direct sunlight during the whole summer. They also created the prized sauce “Garum”, which was a delicacy during the period. This sauce is considered to be an aphrodisiac, and due to its elevated cost, it was only consumed by the wealthier classes of Ancient Rome. In view of the ingredients and treatment, I am sure that now we would not even be able to even smell the costly and renowned sauce.

The Arabs arrived after, to whom we owe the word “almadraba”: place where one beats.

The tradition continues up to the present day as every year the labyrinths of nets are hung up, just the way they were in the past. Through a channel formed by nets anchored to the bottom, it is possible to direct the tunas to a great big net from which they can no longer escape. After lifting this great load, the tunas are pulled up to the surface where they are captured one by one by some extremely strong arms. Not just anyone is capable of lifting pulsing fish, giving violent jerks, and weighing between 300 to 500kgs, and then to throw them onto the surrounding boat decks which are forming a ring that becomes increasingly narrower as long as the precious load is still being extracted from the waters.

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In the forties there were more than twenty salting locations in the area where people from all over went to stock up on their famous salted fish. The salt, which is from the Chiclana salt flats and thicker than usual, is perfect for making “Mojama” (dried salted tuna). In those years of misery in Spain the star product was the herring sardine, however, dogfish, white tuna, tuna and flying fish were also salted. There are very few factories left now, although they continue to work in the exact same way as the Phoenicians and Romans did in their day.

I was told all of this in the port, but afterwards they advised me to visit “La Chanca”. It is one of the few craftwork and family-run businesses left in the area, in which a curious and interesting tuna museum has been installed, and where you are explained everything and are able to taste the products. Here we see the tuna get cut up and hear the famous “ronqueo”, the hoarse sound made when the expert hands pass the knife through the dorsal spine to separate the tuna loins. It is a noise similar to that made by a person snoring, and from this, comes the name.

A great variety of products are salted, preserved and smoked in the area, above all tuna fish, and they do it exactly the same way as it was done 3000 years ago. It is an art that should never be lost, and that all of us should know about and value for its long tradition in our history.

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I leave you here with a small photographic report of my experiences that morning in August, I hope you like it.


Ronqueo: A hoarse sound, such as a snore.

Vivian Maier

One hundred and twenty images presented as “Street Photographer”, however, they are only one tiny part of Vivian Maier´s (1926-2009) photographic legacy. We can see them displayed in Valladolid until July 8th. It is the first time that this anonymous portrait artist (nanny by profession) is being exhibited in Europe.

I discovered her thanks to Beatriz Garcia Couriel in one of her online photography courses. Vivian’s plain and simple work takes you straight to mid twentieth century Chicago and New York before you even realize it. I fell in love with her work from the first moment.

Vivian developed her reels in the bathroom of a house where she was working as a nanny, finally accumulating hundreds of them. The majority still haven´t even been revealed.

Vivian´s legacy was discovered six years ago by total coincidence when, after an auction in Chicago, nearly 100,000 negatives were found. John Maloof, the owner of the material auctioned in 2007, still hasn’t managed to bring all of her material to light. The auction took place two years before the photographer´s death and it was carried out in order to help her pay off her debts, and come out of the precarious financial situation in which she found herself.

They are street prints, people from everyday life in Chicago and New York: prostitutes, beggars, tramps, children… They are simply everyday scenes bursting with magnetism.

One of the photographer´s series that most caught my attention from the first moment were her self-portraits. They´re reflections in mirrors or glass in normal every day places taken during her Sunday strolls. They are a series of self-portraits in which you can see a serious Vivian with a reserved, shy and secretive look about her. This is the feeling that these particular photographs transmit to me. The exhibition´s commissioner, Anne Morin, has named it the “never-ending search” for herself, “perhaps because of the real exploration of who she was”.

Street Photographer, after passing through Valladolid, will travel through Belgium, France and Sweden, amongst other countries, for the next three years.

During the month of May I carried out my first amateur photographic project. .  It consists of 31 black and white photographs of the “Barrio de Salamanca” in Madrid “31 Moments to Remember“. The last image of my project is a small tribute to this great artist.

My 13 reflections of my area.

You may have already guessed that I plan to go and visit the exhibition. I think that it is a unique occasion to enjoy this artist’s work and I probably won´t have another chance to see it in my lifetime.

I will tell you about my impressions…

Images: © Vivian Maier, Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, NY



Hopper: My inspiration

Edward Hopper will be in Madrid until 16th September.

The ‘Thyssen Bornemisza’ Museum hosts this magnificent selection of 73 of the North American artist’s work, creating one of the widest and most ambitious exhibitions that has been shown of his work until now in Europe.

Before going on Holiday I decided to dedicate an afternoon to his exhibition.

I wanted to get more familiar with the work of this Twentieth Century American realist painter, the one about whom I had read so much but seen so little.

I recommend that you visit the exhibition with time; it is rather extensive and surprising. You cannot see it in a hurry.

My first sensation when I started to wander through the halls of the Thyssen was to feel as if I were like one of those tourists with their camera in hand, capturing moments of people’s everyday lives. It’s like walking around the streets of New York and walking into a window display or a window with no curtains at the turn of every corner. You feel like you’re part of the character’s every day life in each painting. Until you reach the point when you start to feel indiscreet and guilty of intruding on foreign lives, trying to figure out what they are doing at that moment, and above all, what would be on the minds of each and every one of them.  It’s as if you’re taking photographs; photographs stolen from everyday scenes and moments of anonymous, solitary, melancholic people’s lives without them even noticing.

It’s as it they were posing for you without realising… without being aware of your presence.

His pieces are of such a simple composition, of such a clean and clear design, of such smooth level and contrasting light that they only leave room for focusing attention on the real main characters and their moment’s of introspection…

There are three paintings that stood out to me more than others, it’s curious because I imagined the three of them converted into photographs. My mind began transforming the characters into brightly coloured pieces of costume jewellery: brooches, earrings, necklaces… Everything transformed itself into solitary people, concentrating on themselves yet under a surprising light just like the one seen in all of Hopper’s paintings.

The first of all is “Soir Blue”

Due to its size and strong colours it’s a monumental piece of art. Hopper painted it four years after returning to Paris. I think that in the painting he tries to make a reference to the Parisian society that he knew there. It seems as if the characters were sitting on a terrace, dressed-up and waiting to act in a theatrical performance of some sort.

It includes a clown, a soldier dressed in black tie, what seems to be an intellectual represented by a character with a beard and beret, a Parisian bourgeoisie couple. On foot, leaning against the balustrade is a beautiful, haughty, excessively made-up woman with a skin so white that it shows off her green dress even more so.

I was extremely taken by this work’s colour, strength and theatricality.

“Room in New York” (1932). The painting freezes a moment in which the man reading the paper is ignoring the woman’s presence. She is playing a few simple notes on the piano with one hand, absent and thoughtful. The result of this scene is cinematographic, as are so many others of Hopper’s pieces.

The woman in the painting is represented by a pair of striking red earrings of a very intense shade of red and the man is absent…as if he were just a black smudge.

When I arrived at the “Two Comedians” I imagined Hopper and his wife Jo, represented by two earrings in the shape of tear drops. This works represents the author’s farewell to his public, as it was his last piece of work. The two pierrots (clowns) bow their heads in an act of reverence, sad, as are my two white tears.

I also wanted to give a special mention to his watercolours of American houses for their detail and light, which were painted during his summer stays on Cape Cod during his marriage. I have always liked these unfamiliar types of American and English houses… it seems curious that Hopper would have noticed these little fisherman’s houses or the Victorian mansions of the North American East Coast and that he should have painted them in such luxurious detail. It’s charming.

If you are interested in experiencing the sensations produced by Hopper’s painting as you pass by them, do not hesitate to visit the Thyssen Bornemisza before 16th September. I can assure you that the experience is worth it.

In my opinion it isn’t an exhibition that leaves you indifferent… It makes you form a part of it as if you were just another character in one of its paintings.

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Virtual visit to the exhibition