Beyond Reportage

There are a number of documentary photographers in Spain that have addressed the phenomenon of migrations in the country using an array of contemporary visual strategies. Many of them seem to have reconsidered in their personal projects the conventions of the classic photo essay and its role in shaping traditional representations.

While Luis Belmonte's La Dehesa series looks at the transitional nature of the camps built by the council of Albacete for the accommodation of migrant agricultural workers, Sebastián Conejo investigates in his Mezquitas the empty interiors of the areas reserved for communal prayer in the urban mosques of Catalonia. What might appear as a new set of typologies, these images are instead an invitation to contemplate the space and silence within the existing architecture and certainly beyond our own preconceptions. The quietness and serenity that both photographers are able to convey contrasts quite sharply with the social and political controversies surrounding the construction - and even the existence - of these shelters.

Many documentary photographers have also resorted to vernacular photography and turned their attention to the high street photo studio, the institutional archive or the family album. Seems that their scope is to bring about a strong sense of closeness and to highlight the fact that the individuals and communities have actively participated in the process of documentation. Instead of pressing the shutter, these photographers use their editing skills to browse through hundreds of images in albums, boxes and digital media. Picking up an image becomes a decisive moment in its own right and this is exactly the case with the work of Juan Valbuena. With the patronage of Casa Arabe cultural centre of Madrid, he has put together a great book and exhibition: Nosotros, Un álbum colectivo del barrio de Lavapiés.

All pictures ©Reinaldo Loureiro et alii