Barcelona

La Model (La Modelo) Prison, Barcelona

La Modelo, #23. Barcelona, 2017
La Modelo, #23. Barcelona, 2017

 

I would call La Modelo sort of the Alcatraz of Barcelona, and free public visits were recently offered as it is now out-of-date, closed, empty, eerie, haunted, and scheduled for a major gutting and/or demolition. So off we went.

Both Alcatraz and La Modelo (la Model in Catalan) are islands of a sort…the first surrounded by water, the latter surrounded by city. And both are historical icons for their respective cultures.

Alcatraz, however, only lasted 29 years or so and proved to be too expensive to operate for the relatively few number of convicts. La Modelo, on the other hand, was an enlightened (for the time) attempt to treat prisioners in a way that might lead to rehabilitation (imagine that!) and it stayed in business for 113 years. Despite the intentions, the Barcelona facility was certainly not always used in the most enlightened of ways as political prisoners were frequent guests.

And then there was the one in-house execution by garrote vil with which I now have a sort of personal connection. More on that with the images that follow below the break.

 

La Modelo, #25, Barcelona, 2017 (From an early 20th century exhibit photo.)
La Modelo, #25, Barcelona, 2017 (From an early 20th century exhibit photo.)

 

But, for all that, it really was supposed to be a “model prison”, thus the name. Take a look at the design in the picture-of-a-picture above and note the six radiating wings which held prisoners, each wing dedicated to certain types of cons based on their characteristics and behavior. Especially note the tall tower in the middle. This was Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon concept (late 18th centiry) brought to life. It was all about control, observation, and subjugation of all prisoners from that one central, elevated, point–the all-seeing eye.

La Modelo ceased operations just this past June and the air was still heavy with history and tragedy.

Here are a few photographs from our visit, along with commentary–including the story of my personal connection to that execution I mentioned. For the curious photog, all of these were handheld shots captured by the small Sony RX100iv, often at ISO 1600 when indoors… Click here if you would like to read on and see the prison images.

The Long Shadows of Autumn

Shadows of Autumn. Montjuic, Barcelona, 2017 (iPhone 6)
Shadows of Autumn. Montjuic, Barcelona, 2017 (iPhone 6)

 

Yes, fall has been felled. But, in my view that gives us outdoor photographers yet more opportunities to create. You really have to love the quality of light with the sun so much lower in the sky. (Well, for many of us–apologies to my Southern Hemisphere friends!)

And, the bonus: We don’t have to get up so early to be there and square with our tripods for sunrise!

Barcelona Peace Rally, August 26, 2017

 

More than a half million Barcelonans, many carrying a single long-stemmed rose, filled the streets this afternoon for a peace rally in the aftermath of the senseless terrorist attack on Las Ramblas. There were people of all kinds–Catalans, tourists, recent immigrants, even a large number of Muslims.

The above short video will give you some flavor of the event.

Some of the signs:

“We are not afraid”

“No, to Islamophobia”

“Your wars, our dead”

“Felipe [the King], if you want peace, don’t traffic in weapons”

“The best answer is peace”

 

Here are a handful of images with my commentary:

The crowd moving down Passeig de Gràcia on their way to Plaça de Catalunya:

Protest for Peace, #1. Barcelona, 2017
Protest for Peace, #1. Barcelona, 2017

 

The idea is to have the Muslim world together with us (as just about all already are) in this battle against extremism:

Protest for Peace, #2. Barcelona, 2017

 

The sign that is being dismantled said, “Spain against terrorism…Thanks, Your Majesty! [the King]” and was accompanied by a number of Spanish national flags being waved about on tall poles. The message sounds good, except that it was really pissing off the local Catalans and the police siphoned them away from the main march and had them disband as they were being bombarded by jeers, whistles, and shouts from the home crowd. Why? Well, these protesters were Madrid loyalists (Spanish flags) and, from the Catalan point-of-view, Madrid is essentially in bed with the terrorists and the root cause of the various terrorist attacks in Spain due to Madrid’s support of the Iraq wars and ongoing international arms sales. Then, of course, there is the Catalan tendency to dislike all that is Madrid and anything related to the Bourbon royal dynasty (see especially the Siege of Barcelona, 1713-1714):

Protest for Peace, #4. Barcelona, 2017
Protest for Peace, #4. Barcelona, 2017

 

Red Cross and police vehicles were soon decorated with roses in thanks for their service during and immediately after the attacks:

Protest for Peace, #5. Barcelona, 2017
Protest for Peace, #5. Barcelona, 2017

 

Much of the crowd continued on past the Plaça de Catalunya and visited the various memorials along Las Ramblas:

Protest for Peace, #6. Barcelona, 2017
Protest for Peace, #6. Barcelona, 2017

 

Muslim marchers rest in front of the Las Ramblas Burger King after the rally. The messages: “Love wins over hate”, “We want peace”, “Barcelona embraces peace”, “We want peace…end terrorism”:

Protest for Peace, #7. Barcelona, 2017
Protest for Peace, #7. Barcelona, 2017

Terrorism on Las Ramblas, Barcelona

Las Ramblas, #25. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #25. Barcelona, 2017

 

Yes, it is yet another inhumane and disgraceful act of inhuman cowardice. This time, on one of the world’s most famous and beloved pedestrian walkways, the Las Ramblas (or La Rambla) corridor in Barcelona, Spain.

I absolutely don’t want to take away from the weight of the tragedy in Catalunya, but in the past few months, as a reminder, the world has seen…

15 April, in Syria: 126 killed, mostly children, in a car bomb attack against evacuees

31 May, in Afghanistan: at least 80 and up to 150 killed and some 350 or more wounded in a suicide truck bomb attack in Kabul

23 June, in Pakistan: 75 to perhaps 100 killed and at least 150 wounded in twin bomb blasts and a third targeted attack

24 July, in Pakistan: 26 killed and 58 wounded in suicide bomber attack

12 August, in Pakistan: 15 killed and 32 wounded in bomb attack

This is just an abbreviated list. There were a number of other attacks throughout the world during this period.

The main point is this: ALL of these attacks are horrible tragedies, leaving behind a bloody trail of mangled human bodies–physical and psychological trauma, lost limbs, brain damage, excruciatingly painful burns, and destroyed lives. Perhaps because these events are somewhat rarer in Europe and the United States, it is the attacks in the west, which seem to garner the bulk of the sympathy and publicity in our U.S. and European news media. 

And three other points:

  1. Terrorism committed by “Islamic extremists”–who aren’t really “Islamic” at all, by the way–is not the only kind of terrorism there is. Consider the killing of nine black parishioners by a white supremacist at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015. I’d say that fits the definition of terrorism.
  2. The vast, vast majority of Muslims aggressively condemn terrorist attacks committed in the name of their religion. Those in the west who criticize Islam, rather than separating out specific criminal deviants for vilification, risk alienating portions of the Islamic population. The world would be a better place with Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, all working together against the scourge of terrorism. (Actually, maybe the world would be better off without any of these religions–with the possible exception of Buddhism–but that is a topic for another day.)
  3. Finally, it sure wouldn’t be a bad idea to ask ourselves just why individuals turn to terrorism. What are the economic and political factors driving such an extreme decision? Remove these factors and you remove the raison d’etre of terrorism. This requires clinical study, not simplistic emotional reactions.

Here is a selection of images from the Las Ramblas tragedy, with my occasional commentary, made early in the morning of August 25, eight days after the fact…

Before dawn, a city worker stops to contemplate one of the larger memorials. As the candles slowly burn out or are blown out by the breeze, only the candles along the edge are easily relit or replaced:

Las Ramblas, #1. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #1. Barcelona, 2017

 

One of at least 20 smaller memorials, some specifically for individuals who died in the attack:

Las Ramblas, #3. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #3. Barcelona, 2017

 

People from many countries have written their supportive messages on the tree trunks and the walkway tiles. One common phrase that you see everywhere is “No tenim por”, or “We are not afraid” in the Catalan language:

Las Ramblas, #6. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #6. Barcelona, 2017

 

Las Ramblas, #7. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #7. Barcelona, 2017

 

One of the victims, 40-year-old Silvina Pereyra Cabrera and originally from Argentina (or Colombia?), had lived in Barcelona for ten years and worked in the famous market, La Boqueria:

Las Ramblas, #9. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #9. Barcelona, 2017

 

As I was photographing, I ran into this young guy who was relighting as many of the candles as he could. Speaking in Spanish, he made the point that terrorism occurs all over the world and victims in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Syria deserve just as much sympathy as victims in Europe. We are all human, we all have families, and we all suffer, he said. I neglected to ask, but I would suspect he is an immigrant from (perhaps) Morocco:

Las Ramblas, #12. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #12. Barcelona, 2017

 

Others stopped to relight candles as well:

Las Ramblas, #16. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #16. Barcelona, 2017

 

At the intersection with Carrer de l’Hospital (Hospital Street), near La Boqueria, you’ll find the largest memorial, a vast field of flowers, posters, notes, letters, stuffed animals, candles, and other personal items. I believe this is about where the criminal asshole’s vehicle finally came to a stop:

Las Ramblas, #17. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #17. Barcelona, 2017

 

Three-year-old Xavi Martinez was the youngest victim of the attack:

Las Ramblas, #21. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #21. Barcelona, 2017

 

Mickey and Minnie:

Las Ramblas, #22. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #22. Barcelona, 2017

 

I found an American flag in the memorial closest to Plaça de Catalunya, perhaps intended for Jared Tucker, a 42-year-old American construction worker who was killed here. The police in the background are the Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalunya’s provincial police. Passersby and crowds often spontaneously break into applause when the Mossos appear, such is the people’s appreciation for their rapid reaction to the attack:

Las Ramblas, #27. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #27. Barcelona, 2017

 

“Muslims against terrorism”, in a field of compassion:

Las Ramblas, #28. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #28. Barcelona, 2017

Self Portrait Series (Legs and Balls…so to speak)

Having fun with composition and perspective along a Barcelona sidewalk, despite the many and constant sidelong glances of passers-by…

“I’m on top of the world, lookin’ down on creation…”

Song: Top of the World, The Carpenters (1972)

Self-Portrait, Legs and Balls, #1. Barcelona, 2017
Self-Portrait, Legs and Balls, #1. Barcelona, 2017

 

Self-Portrait, Legs and Balls, #2. Barcelona, 2017
Self-Portrait, Legs and Balls, #2. Barcelona, 2017

 

Self-Portrait, Legs and Balls, #3. Barcelona, 2017
Self-Portrait, Legs and Balls, #3. Barcelona, 2017

The “Almmond Project”, Barcelona

Almendras, #4. Barcelona, 2015
Almmendra, #4. Barcelona, 2015

 

Yes, “almmond” with two “m’s”. That is the trademark name of this healthy food restaurant, soon to open its doors in Barcelona. In Spanish, it will be “ALMMENDRA”, as in the above sample stock image of mine.

My assigned role was to create photographs of the food providers and the food products–photos which might possibly be used either in a photo book for the owner, or as large prints on the walls–or not used at all, depending on the final decision. (See the October 9, 2015 blog post, “Portrait of a Master Baker”, for images of one of the providers.)

For me, though, regardless of the outcome, the project was quite an education in many areas…in lighting in general, in the use of light boxes in particular, in food selection and arrangement (oh, attention to detail!), how to add steam to hot tea in Photoshop, and so on.

In short, I was quite uncomfortable throughout the whole journey…not my cup o’ tea, so to speak.

I consoled myself a bit by thinking that at least the product shots were like little mini-landscapes. And I also had plenty of help–my significant other and the restaurant owner herself designed the basic food setups and arrangements.

The computer backside of the project was also very time consuming what with the processing and formatting of a portfolio of 100+ selected images of the several hundred we shot. Yes, it only begins with the snap of the shutter. At least half of the work is in the post-processing.

Whether my images actually end up being used remains to be seen but, still, it was fun and I am likely a better photographer for it.

Here are a few examples of the ALMMENDRA style…

Croissants, #1. Barcelona, 2015
Croissants, #1. Barcelona, 2015

 

Bread, #7. Barcelona, 2015
Bread, #7. Barcelona, 2015

 

Carrot Juice. Barcelona, 2015
Carrot Juice. Barcelona, 2015

 

Bocadillo, #3. Barcelona, 2015
Bocadillo, #3. Barcelona, 2015

 

Hot Chocolate, #1. Barcelona, 2015
Hot Chocolate, #1. Barcelona, 2015

 

Choco-Almendras, #2. Barcelona, 2015
Coffee Beans and Chocolate. Barcelona, 2015

Flavor, in Color

Coffee with Heart (and Flavor!). Barcelona, 2015
Coffee with Heart (and Flavor!). Barcelona, 2015

 

This is something I notice whenever I travel away from my home country: the foreign food has flavor. Zest! Punch!

When I eat, it is as if someone turned on the colors inside my mouth.

If there is one thing we do really well in the United States it is to produce vast quantities of relatively cheap food. Unfortunately, this food has been bred and/or packaged for ease of transport (large country, factory farms in California), durability (we are all too busy to shop but once a week) and appearance (better sales) and not necessarily for taste.

Quantity and convenience has taken precedence over quality.

I am not sure the average U.S. citizen, if not a frequent traveler, understands just how much our taste buds have been dumbed down (or, the other extreme, blasted into insensitivity by excessive artificial spice and flavoring).

Whether it is the Netherlands or Norway, Barcelona or Bilbao, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, or Timbuktu, you’ll notice that the coffee, the grains, the cheeses, the meats, the fruits, berries and vegetables (even the lettuce!) all have a little extra, subtle-but-punchy, earthly flavor. Color for the sensitive tongue, you might say.

Does anyone really remember what a tomato is supposed to taste like? Blackberries? A melon? Grass-fed beef?

I guess the good news is we are slowly figuring this out in the U.S. of A. Thus the growing trend to produce and buy local from small farms, many of them organic.

Finally!

Review: La Foixarda Rock Climbing Tunnel, Barcelona

La Foixarda, #1. Barcelona, 2015
La Foixarda, #1. Barcelona, 2015

 

A climbing “tunnel”, you ask with incredulity?

Yes, indeedy, a tunnel.

It is located on Montjuic, in the city of Barcelona, in what was once a stone quarry. In fact, the stone to build the famous Santa María del Mar church came from this same quarry way back in the 14th century. The tunnel was a late 20th century addition built to access the area which now also includes a very pro rugby pitch and an indoor climbing gym, Climbat.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, before the 1992 Barcelona Olympic games, local climbers started to put up routes in the quarry walls as well as inside and on the ends of the concrete tunnel. In October of 2009, heavy rains caused a large collapse of the rock in the quarry, so the large sections of natural rock have been closed ever since.

Still, there is plenty here to play around on.

A few observations:

–It is pretty much all bouldering or sport climbing on very short (4 to 15 meters) routes. The low traverses are very popular and probably where you will start.

–You’ll likely find climbers here at just about any hour and any day of the week. You may even run into a possible climbing partner for a run out to one of the many nearby local crags.

–Being a tunnel, you can hang out and climb here even in inclement weather.

–They say there are some 80-90 possible climbs in and just outside of the tunnel, from 5a (5.7) to as hard as you like. You’ll find the route names and ratings in the little yellow squares here and there–if they haven’t been eroded beyond recognition. From the yellow box, climb straight up to the apex of the curved roof, then lower off the anchors.

–Most of the longer routes just outside the tunnel are on the artificial Disney-like cement that was used to cap and control the unstable natural rock beneath. Here, you will find glued-on and bolted gym holds as well as holds chipped directly into the concrete.

–With the passage of many, many feet over the decades, you’ll often find the holds polished down to a virtual verglas state–especially the foot holds on the low traverses along the 50-meter length of the tunnel. You will be using a lot more hand, finger and upper body than would normally be necessary otherwise.

–The “onda” is very grunge-urban with plenty of graffiti, the light noise of the passing traffic above, and the soundtrack beat from the odd portable boom box.

–For a completely different experience, try the Climbat climbing gym just a few hundred yards away on the same road.

For more… Click here for the photographic tour!

To the Sea

And now for something completely different.

From the high Colorado mountains to the Mediterranean Sea in just a couple of days via one of those magical miracles of modern life. the 0.8 Mach aluminum and composite tube with wings and seats…

So, some images from this morning along the Barcelona beachfront. Sometimes, the light, the clouds, the wind, are all just about right.

 

Barcelona Dawn, #1. 2015
Barcelona Dawn, #1. 2015

 

Barcelona Dawn, #4. 2015
Barcelona Dawn, #4. 2015

 

Barcelona Dawn, #7. 2015
Barcelona Dawn, #7. 2015

 

Barcelona Dawn, #8. 2015
Barcelona Dawn, #8. 2015

 

And a bonus image, in monochrome…

Yoga By the Sea. Barcelona, 2015
Yoga By the Sea. Barcelona, 2015