Our community of readers and contributors are truly from around the world. While browsing, I stumbled upon a nice set of images about Semana Santa in Spain by Rafael Garcia.
Rafael, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Rafael García, but please call me Rafa (I think we are acquainted by now 🙂 ). I was born in 1970 in Zamora, a small city in Spain. Engineer. That’s my university degree and that’s my job. Since I was really young I had a crush on Fine Arts (painting, sculpture and music specially). I think my interest for photography was a natural move after all these years.
I mean a move from just watching and enjoying to building up and creating something for myself. Now photography has become a passion, and that’s an understatement.
Engineer? My brother does that. Where was this project shot?
This project is shot in Valladolid (Spain), the city I was raised in.
Valladolid is in the region of Castile and Leon, in the centre of Spain. It’s a city of history and traditions. Some of the best wines in the world are made here. But I digress, huh?
I've never heard of this place. But then again, I don't expect people to know where Jacmel is 🙂 What gear did you use?
I shot this using a Fujifilm X-Pro1 and three lenses: Fujinon XF35mm f/1.4, Fujinon XF60mm f/2.4 and Canon FD 135mm f/3.5. The old FD lens is mounted on a Kipon FD to X System adapter. It has no aperture blades, but I’ve had fun shooting it wide open for a long time till I added a Fujinon tele lens to my bag.
My most used lens during this small project was the XF60mm. Not the most popular X System lens, but great IQ. I wanted to purposefully constraint myself to an approach where details were more important than a wide angle view and ample scenes.
What does Semana Santa mean to you and how did that influence your photography?
Holy Week is the feast that marks the arrival of Spring. Of course it has a religious meaning, and a very strong one in many cities of Spain (Sevile, Málaga, Zamora, Valladolid, etc.).
Since my childhood I fell under the spell of this feast. The incense burning in the dark churches of the city. The big candles lit all around to give testimony of the devotion of the people. The sound of drums and trumpets all around the city to announce the march of the processions, or the arrival of fraternities to their churches.
The silence in the streets as processions approaches. The extraordinary sculptures from Old Masters of 15th and 16th century (Juan de Juni, Gregorio Fernández). I remember how the sound of drums could be heard at my parents house from a church distant 400m or so. It made me shake and want to go out there to see the procession march, to be witness of that strange ritual.
Since I was a little child I remember I used to search in the local newspaper for news about the processions. I wanted to see the photographs and the details in them. Luis Laforga was the photographer then for that newspaper. His eye educated mine as I read the news.
I collected postcards from those processions. I wanted to know everything about it: the names of the fraternities, the names of the pasos (floats with a group of sculptures depicting an scene of the Passion). Photographs in those postcards used to be old; many of them were from the early 60s or late 50s. That added spice to my imagination. What was happening in there? Why those clothes? Why those streets did not look the same now?
All those experiences and much more built up a fertile world in my imagination, helped me see, helped me grow a taste for Fine Arts and beauty (no matter how worn out the word might be), helped me appreciate a world where light and shadows where strong and built unusual scenes. It all helped me feed my visual world.
Can you give us a history of Semana Santa? What it's about?
During Holy Week, from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday, Valladolid is filled up with the members of religious fraternities (cofradías) in procession accompanying the floats with sculptures representing scenes of the Passion of Christ. From the Last Supper to his death and resurrection, all those scenes can be seen in the streets. Those floats are carried over the shoulders of members of the fraternities or over wheels. Bands of drums and trumpets mark the pace of the march just like in an army parade.
Members of fraternities are dressed in costumes that hide their body and conceal their face under a mask, to preserve. Some women still dress like ladies in old Spain, in black and wearing mantillas. All must look very picturesque for a foreigner who has never witnessed it.
Why did you want to shoot this event?
I no longer live in Valladolid. I had to migrate to Madrid looking for a job 17 years ago. I’m still linked to the city because my parents and sisters, old friends, they all live there. Don’t use to be back for Easter, but last year I felt like it.
I wanted to revisit that world now that my eyes are not as accustomed to it as they used to. Never before had I built a series that told anything about this feast in a consistent and non cliché way. Not that I say I made it now, but I wanted to give it a try make it.
I’m not religious but this feast has a special meaning to my city. It’s part of its identity and shows some of its values. By shooting this I get closer to my roots somehow. I am aware of who I am by knowing where I come from.
Why did you choose to shoot it that way?
I did not want to re-create those old postcards from my childhood. I did not want to shoot big scenes, crowded streets, the lines of penitents in their strange costumes. I wanted to focus in details: hands holding the banners, the mantilla veils, the children following their parents in the tradition, hands, costumes details, the bands…
I did not want to show the macabre side of it (in the end is the memorial of a torture and shameful death of a man, the Son of God to the believers, but still a man in pain). I wanted to show the joy in the last day of the feast, on the Sunday of Resurrection.
Any anecdotes you can share?
It is funny how we can imagine a picture, make it possible in our mind and then actually take it; is it not? The picture with the boy ringing a bell has a story around it. I saw the shot before the scene actually happened. A bell in the facade of one of the oldest buildings of the city (Santa Cruz Palace). It is a ceremonial bell and the rope to ring it is not always attached. This time it was and there were a lot of children in the square.
It was a matter of time that a child got closer to it and tried ringing the bell. The joy of achieving the forbidden. He rang it and ran away with a smile in his face. “I did it”, he must have thought. I made it as well.
Any closing comments?
Yes. It’s a pleasure to be part of the “The Inspired Eye” community and to feel the energy of it. I’m really happy and grateful you’ve considered this little story worth knowing.
Thank you Rafa, for all of your comments and support, along with some close-to-the-heart photography. I hope it motivates our readers to do the same. Rafa will be in an upcoming issue of our Street Photography Magazine and look out for another Holy Week feature, this time in the Philippines.