The Sardana

Some say the sardana as a dance goes all the way back to the 16th century. It is possible. It was certainly popular by the 19th/20th century, though, and has now become yet one more symbol of Catalan nationalism as they push for independence from Madrid.

The small band that provides the music is called a cobla, typically an 11-member ensemble. Note the unusual wind instruments in the front row–these are sort of like oboes of various registers (but, on steroids!) and are responsible for the strange, perhaps even medieval-like, sound of the group.

You can see and hear what I mean about the dance and the music in this YouTube video from the very place I made the images on this post–the plaza in front of the Barcelona Cathedral. (Dances go on there during the summer months every Saturday starting at 6p.m. and every Sunday starting at noon. There may also be a dance on Wednesday at 6p.m. as well–ask around.)

The Band #1. Barcelona, 2014
The Band #1. Barcelona, 2014

Some may recognize the woman in the black dress…!

Sardana #2. Barcelona, 2014
Sardana #2. Barcelona, 2014
Sardana #3. Barcelona, 2014
Sardana #3. Barcelona, 2014

Photographer Spotlight: Joan Fontcuberta

The Kiss #1. Barcelona, 2014 (A work by Joan Fontcuberta)
The Kiss #1. Barcelona, 2014 (A work by Joan Fontcuberta)

This public art installation by Fontcuberta was put up just this month in a small plaza in Barcelona. The full name of the work is “The world begins with every kiss.”

The mosaic is made up of 4,000 individuals images from newspaper readers who were asked to participate in the project. You can view a short (2 1/2 minute) YouTube video about it HERE, and Joan’s Wikipedia page can be found HERE.

To go straight to the source, try Joan Fontcuberta’s website.

A quote to whet your appetite about his philosophy:

“The good photographer is one who lies well about the truth.”

For the good stuff: I have just posted this particular work on one of the Photo.net forums as part of the “Weekly Discussion” program. These discussions usually are quite educational and can introduce you to some deeper thinking about art, photography, seeing, the creative process, and so on–there are some pretty bright and perceptive photographers who chime in with their comments.

So, rather than me blathering on with my inane comments about Fontcuberta’s work on this post, go to THIS LINK at Photo.net and check out a [potentially!] much more sophisticated discussion.

The Kiss, Detail. Barcelona, 2014
The Kiss, Detail. Barcelona, 2014

Is the subject important?

Is it possible to make a good image of anything as long as the light and the composition are both strong?

How about…toilets, maybe…or even turds in the toilet!…cigarette butts…a stick…a wad of chewed chewing gum…a green pepper…a wall…and maybe even some concrete steps?

Steps and Shadows. Barcelona, 2014
Steps and Shadows. Barcelona, 2014

Barcelona Photography Exhibitions

La Central Tèrmica de Sant Adrià de Besòs. Catalunya, 2014
La Central Tèrmica de Sant Adrià de Besòs. Catalunya, 2014

If you are a photographer traveling to Barcelona, be sure to check out what photography exhibits might be in town during your stay. A simple Google search for “exposiciones de fotografía en Barcelona” turned up the KEDIN website [February, 2017 NOTE: site no longer active] with some 19 events listed with links. Some links will have an English option, with others you may have to put your Castellano or Catalan language skills to work.

To be sure, a few of the events you will find listed will be small, low-budget, local affairs, perhaps involving a photography contest or project presented by a high school or a neighborhood. At these events, the work can be variable, from very good to just so-so.

But, some (many!?) exhibits will be world class. If the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) or the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) has something going on, you can be assured that it will be very good (if not necessarily to your personal taste). Some private entities (like banks) will often put on exhibitions, too. A number of these big shows will be free, so that is an added bonus.

One place to definitely put on your photography itinerary is the Centre de la Imatge in the Palau de la Virreina (La Rambla 99, near the Liceu Metro

Centre de la Imatge. Barcelona, 2014
Centre de la Imatge. Barcelona, 2014

stop). They are dedicated to photography–well, to the image itself in its many forms, really–and they usually have more than one top notch exhibit going on.

The Centre is sponsored by the Ajuntament de Barcelona (the City) so it is free. Since you’ll likely be strolling along La Rambla sometime during your stay anyway, there is no reason to not go in. They are open noon to 8p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, including holidays. (Important motivational side point: there are public bathrooms there, too, on the ground floor.)

As of July, 2014, there were three photography exhibits in the Centre de la Imatge. A brief description of each will give you an idea as to the variety of work that is often presented.

Gerald van der Kaap, a Dutch photographer and visual artist. His exhibit was multi-media with a short film and videos as well as photography (very slick color prints). It wasn’t really my cup o’ Gatorade being a bit too “conceptual” for me.

–An exhibit that was presented at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013 called 25%. Catalonia at Venice. A critique of the current state of the economic system as the 25% refers to the unemployment rate in Spain. Eight, very different, unemployed individuals from Catalonia were profiled with photographic prints (how they live), along with a huge portrait of each and a video that told their personal story. Also presented in each case was an object of personal meaning each person brought from their own home as well as a significant art object borrowed from the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona that held personal meaning for each. Interesting and touching. You have to wonder about a system that is so centralized that a twitch by someone at the top can send millions (even the well-educated and well-prepared) to the soup lines.

Martin Parr’s essay on “The Non-Conformists”. This was, for me, the highlight exhibition of the three…black and white prints from film of the English factory town of Hebden Bridge in the 1970s. The images document a lifestyle that has since disappeared as these old milltowns have become artsy-fartsy-fied and yuppified over the years. His eye for the moment and his sense of humor jump out at you time and again in his photographs…and the classic English faces…wow! Great stuff. (The term Non-Conformists, by the way, refers to the Protestant sects of the area.)

So, once in Barcelona, don’t spend all of your time making pictures–go see some as well!

Fuji X100s, Low Light Examples

Just as an example for those who might care, the following two images were hand held (likely supported on a bench or railing, if I remember right) inside your standard, low light, Gothic cathedral.

I used ISO 3200 and f/2.8, letting the shutter speed fall where it may. In Camera Raw, I needed to sharpen, reduce noise, then pull down the highlights (windows) and pull up the shadows a bit. Once in Photoshop, I did some cloning cleanup and slight cropping, then ran the images through a custom filter I made up in Nik/Google Color Efex Pro to bring out the contrast and detail.

(Santa María del Mar, to be sure, is no “standard” cathedral. It is a superb example of Catalan Gothic architecture with the flying buttresses enclosed and thus used to beautifully expand the indoor volume. The church “of the people” was completed in 55 years after starting construction in 1329–the Barcelona Cathedral, in contrast took some 500 years to finish. See the book, Cathedral of the Sea by Idelfonso Falcones for a wonderful fictional, but historical, account of the construction of Santa María del Mar.)

Santa María del Mar #1. Barcelona, 2014
Santa María del Mar #1. Barcelona, 2014
Santa María del Mar #9. Barcelona, 2014
Santa María del Mar #9. Barcelona, 2014

Postscript: Here are three more handheld Fuji X100s images, this time from the main Barcelona Cathedral. I think the post-processing is a bit better. Also, there is more light in certain areas of the Barcelona Cathedral than in Santa María del Mar, so the ISOs varied–note the metadata. (On the vertical image…for some reason vertical images don’t look as sharp as the horizontal format on this WordPress website, a problem I am looking into…)

La Catedral #1 (Behind the Altar). Barcelona, 2014. [f/2.8, 1/80, ISO 3200]
La Catedral #1 (Behind the Altar). Barcelona, 2014. [f/2.8, 1/80, ISO 3200]
La Catedral #3 (Heavenly Light). Barcelona, 2014. [f/2.8, 1/125, ISO 1250]
La Catedral #3 (Heavenly Light). Barcelona, 2014. [f/2.8, 1/125, ISO 1250]
La Catedral #6 (Column to Arches). Barcelona, 2014. [f/2.8, 1/125, ISO 2500]
La Catedral #6 (Column to Arches). Barcelona, 2014. [f/2.8, 1/125, ISO 2500]