Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Waiting Game- Txema Salvans

Photo: Txema Salvan

A while back Mishka Henner's No Man's Land introduced us to the prostitutes that populate Italy's periphery, and did so via screenshots of Google Street View. It was a fascinating use of technology, and a completely impersonal glimpse of their existence. Later, Paolo Patrizi did a boots on the ground documentation called Migration, concentrating on the circumstances and conditions of the women who work that particular landscape. It put humanity back into the computerized images we saw standing about, and gave testimony to the consequences of their lives- even if we didn't actually see that much of... them.

Now we have The Waiting Game by Txema Salvans, where the prostitutes are located in southern Spain. Senor Salvans employed a rather novel method in capturing these working women in candid repose- he would drive around disguised as a topographer, complete with a topographer's tripod he had specially designed to mount his view camera upon. Ingenious, yes. Ethical? The surreptitious photographs of Mr. Alex Garcia immediately came to mind as he went about secretly recording the residents of inner city Chicago. Do these photographs sink to that level? Salvans states that he thought about paying his subjects, but that would have resulted in posed or uncharacteristic scenarios. His disguise option seemed the best method available to not violate... The Prime Directive.

Photo: Txema Salvan

So how is his method any different than Garcia's, or Henner's for that matter, since Salvans was no more involved with his subjects than some guy at a computer monitor? Garcia's subjects were all in one very specific and geographically accessible neighborhood, these women are working in various, rather isolated areas and are not native to that land. Many are controlled by pimps with links to their homelands (as Salvans himself explains), and do not want to be photographed for obvious safety reasons; hanging out in plain sight to gain their trust over time would have also been a costly proposition to all concerned- particularly the women in more ways than one.

All things considered, I think he did what he had to do and in the best possible manner. You may think otherwise, and I would most definitely like to hear why (make sure you read the interview first). Aesthetically however, there's little argument that these photographs are the best of the lot (unless, of course, you disagree)...

Photo: Txema Salvan


Dave said...

Disguising oneself as a worker is genius. Nobody pays attention to laborers, even topographers. I need to find a way to make my 5D look like a surveyor's scope.

BTW, found you via a comment you left on TOP. Nice blog.

Stan B. said...

Thanks for dropping by Dave. There's usually a way to do just about anything, technically. Ethics, of course- another ball o' wax.

Or as Bruce Gilden would say, "Ethics? What ethics?"