Values and Traditions in Forgotten Spanish Communities

In his image of a couple at a religious procession in the Castilla La Mancha region of Spain, Sebastián Bruno reflects upon cultural customs that transcend the passage of time.

© Sebastián Bruno, from the series Duelos y Quebrantos

This image is one of the first I took as part of my ongoing series, Duelos y Quebrantos, which loosely translates as grief and sorrow. In this work, I retrace the journey that the fictitious adventurer Don Quixote made across Castilla La Mancha in central Spain. It is a personal journey, but one that at the same time explores the lives of the people living in this part of the country.

In a way this image was the one that started it all off. Two years ago I was visiting my family in La Mancha. I was there at Easter and took this image during a religious procession in the town. From there I moved on to take more images in and around the area where I was staying. At that time I wasn’t thinking in terms of a specific project, but it eventually grew out of the images I took during my stay.

I cannot say the people in the town were particularly receptive with regards to what I was trying to do. Wandering through a strange town with a camera can get you a few odd looks. I responded by putting the flash into their faces.

The way I shoot is about isolating a particular moment and emphasising something that could so easily get lost in the crowd. I moved from one side of the procession to the other, and saw this couple passing by. I was shooting something else, I turned and there they were. I didn’t want to show anything that was around them - I wanted to take them out of the context of the procession, so I looked for a way to just highlight these people.

I was inspired by Cristina García Rodero, a Spanish photographer and member of Magnum Photos who photographed during processions and festivals in small towns in Spain. Her work is inspirational but I didn’t want to reference it directly - I wanted to get away from it.

It’s difficult to tell when this image was taken - whether recently or fifty years ago – and in a way this plays into the whole idea of how this part of Spain is stagnating, a theme I explore in the series.

I shot lots of images during this procession but this one stood out. There is something about the man’s expression - one of devotion - and the way he’s clasping his hands together that captures your attention. You wonder - what’s happening to him in this moment?

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Sebastián Bruno is an Argentine / Spanish photographer, named one of BJP's 'Ones to Watch' in 2016.

Gemma Padley is a freelance writer and editor on photography, based in the UK.

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