Txema Salvans // The Waiting Game // Photobook

twg2013

Every year when the Tour de France kicks off, I’ll spot a few improbably enthusiastic fans scattered along every extremity of its route, waiting for a chance to wave and scurry alongside the riders, to participate in some way in the grand promethean event. They often offer the riders some respite from their endeavours by proffering water bottles, so that these people become mobile way-stations or pit stops for the herculean men as they cut up through the mountains, down the snaking descents and along the seemingly interminable flat sprints.

One of the defining and deeply violent anachronisms of the pictures that make up Txema’s “The Waiting Game” is the way that these girls and these women, arrayed like floating buoys along the curving lengths of the nondescript highways and lanes that run the length of Spain’s Mediterranean coast, take on the air of watering stations: portable truck stop relief for any driver who might happen to pass by. Txema’s pictures, which depict these desperate people with an almost unilaterally ruthless impersonality, illustrate precisely the way in which they are as disposable and instantly forgettable as those earnest fans who momentarily clutter the routes of the Tour. They are perishable parts of a much bigger and far more savage machine.

The pictures are ruthlessly impersonal in their refusal to privilege an imagined individual psychology over the larger desecration of the circumstances in which we find these women. Perversely, it is that pictorial indifference that invites our thoughts so irresistibly toward the implausible hopelessness that their lives embody, by means of the places where they are obliged to wait in order to work. The longer I spend imagining my way into the spaces of expectation in which Txema has photographed these girls and these waiting women, the more desolate and acute their predicament appears. There is undeniably a game at work, but the pictures make plain that we could never hope to photograph the winners.

If we look slowly and without agitation or eagerness at these images, it seems that the world has conspired in secret to make of these girls and their situation an object lesson in irony. On a slower viewing we would see a young African immigrant girl crouched beside a byway awaiting a chance to sell her flesh, seated in the shade beneath a sign declaiming “LOW PRICES ALL YEAR” – a truth so literal as to be almost sadistic; we would see the profusion of roadside stoops these women have fashioned beside business parks and truck stops – spaces constructed for the most routine form of bleak and often mindless drudgery; we would note the brutality of an irony that so often sees them seated in the shadows of signage announcing to passing drivers that some service or leisure is nearby, and wonder a little at how profoundly and how nakedly the camera can show the depths of this type of wretchedness. It is in a slow, measured reading of the images that we begin to conceive of the outer edges of utter precariousness on which their lives teeter, warmed by the coldest and most unrelenting of suns, prey to whichever €20 note might pull up or pass by.

The Waiting Game is a very frank and profoundly bleak body of work, even in this truncated form. In all there are around 100 such images, a volume that I believe is testament to at least two factors: on the one hand, it seems to be testament to the inordinate emotional difficulty Txema must have grappled with at stepping finally and decisively away from these roadsides after 5yrs spent hunting down and deceiving these young women into an unwitting and involuntary declaration of their wretched vulnerability; on the other hand it is an unbending affirmation of the scale of a woeful depravity, of the depths of a seemingly intractable problem. That prostitution is legal in Spain should not lead us to suspect that these and other similar young girls are not trapped in similar cycles of vicious dependency at the margins of our own societies.

The fact that Txema came to this work in a truly unplanned and undogmatic way, in the process of continuing his long-term study of the median forms of leisure enjoyed by his fellow Spaniards, seems to me to have tempered any inclination he might have had toward evangelising with his images or descending into some inarticulate moralising quicksand. The utter isolation of his subjects is sufficient. However it is, I think, because Txema sincerely sees this work as forming part of his overall study of the cultural landscape of modern day Spain, and because he photographs these women within that landscape – a space strewn with remnants of the same faded jamboree of cheapness and luxury we all now know with such remorseless clarity – that the photographs do not stop at the point of observing a travesty, but manage to double it back onto ourselves. The interlocking economic cycles so productive of rapid growth and devastation draw together those immigrant women vulnerable or desperate enough to fall prey to the men who traffic in them, the conglomerate businesses who operate the length of this stretch of Mediterranean coast, the bilateral ‘free trade agreements’ that rob the grain from these former colonies, and the working class men who labour and seek their leisure along these roads. Txema’s photographs suggest that we are none of us entirely blameless, all of us in some fashion either voyeurs, fellow countrymen, accomplices or unwitting beneficiaries of the self-same inhumanity.

http://www.thegreatleapsideways.com/

http://www.txemasalvans.com/eng/index.html

http://www.amazon.com/Txema-Salvans-The-Waiting-Game/dp/8415118570

Hacia esos lugares denominados tierra de nadie, donde acaba la ciudad pero todavía no ha empezado el campo, se dirigen cada día estas almas solitarias que ejercen su trabajo a plena luz del día. Su presencia es constante en los polígonos y carreteras secundarias del Mediterráneo. Se pueden observar desde el coche en un abrir y cerrar de ojos como si “de un flash fotográfico se tratara”, dice Txema Salvans.

En 2005, el fotógrafo catalán recibió un encargo del periódico El Mundo para describir esta problemática a través de su objetivo. Cuando llegó el momento de acercarse a algunas de las prostitutas que trabajan en la calle, la respuesta a sus intentos de fotografiarlas fue un rotundo no. “Algo que dada la situación en la que están no me sorprendió”, explica Salvans.

Tras las negativas repetidas por parte de ellas, urdió un plan para introducirse en su mundo sin despertar sospechas. Un amigo que tenía una empresa de topografía le prestó un trípode, chaleco reflectante y un casco. El catalán se hizo con una cámara Cambo Wide, muy indicada para hacer escenas arquitectónicas y de interiorismo, y se lanzó a retratar estas escenas.

El camuflaje funcionó y enseguida desactivó cualquier tipo de situación incómoda que pudiera surgir de su presencia cercana a las mujeres. “La primera cosa que hacía era acercarme a ellas e informarlas que estaría trabajando cerca durante un corto periodo de tiempo. Procuraba siempre hablar muy educadamente para que entendieran enseguida que estaba trabajando y se relajasen”, explica el fotógrafo.

Preguntado sobre del dilema ético de convertirlas en partícipes de este proyecto sin su conocimiento Salvans dice que el no acudía allí para retratar sus caras. “He querido hacer un documento científico. Un testimonio topográfico que diese constancia de una realidad que ocurre en todo el Mediterráneo, empezando por Girona y llegando hasta Andalucía. El lugar donde pasa es casi indistinguible de los demás porque está en todas partes”.

Tras 8 años buscando estas escenas, el fotógrafo publica The Waiting Game, un libro que reúne una selección de 41 fotografías que presentó en la escuela BlankPaper. “Imágenes realizadas en las horas de luz más dura para que no hubiese dudas sobre lo que pasa. Esto no es algo oculto que sucede cuando cae la noche. Está ocurriendo a plena luz del sol. No quería una postal bonita. Quería retratar la realidad”, añade el catalán.

Una de las cosas que más impactó al creador de la serie durante el tiempo que transcurrió el proyecto es la sensación de desamparo que transmite la situación de trabajo de estas mujeres. “Cada vez que te subes a un coche no sabes lo que te puede pasar. Lo mejor que te puede acontecer es que simplemente te pidan un servicio sexual”.

Esa sensación se vio correspondida por su hija de 6 años cuando le encontró una mañana dibujando sobre una maqueta inicial que había preparado para el libro. “En una de las fotografías había pintado una casa sobre la chica. Ella también percibía esa sensación de soledad y quería protegerla”.

Y con estos testimonios reales, Salvans espera que en 20, 30 o 100 años podamos volver a ver las fotos y reflexionar sobre el uso del espacio público. “Quitarnos de la cabeza que esto es un producto de la crisis. Siempre ha estado allí, pero deberíamos preguntarnos si hay algo que podamos hacer al respecto”.

Fuente: http://www.yorokobu.es/the-wainting-game/

http://www.amazon.es/The-Waiting-Game-Txema-Salvans/dp/8415118589

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