16 August 2016

The Vain Burial of Memory

16 August 2016 - Written by Laurence Cornet

In a book served by a bold design, Salva López uses images from both the past and present to describe in metaphors how wounds heal but remain.

© Salva López, spread from the book, Illa

Salva López’s book offers a series of surprises as its content eludes a superficial look thanks to a well-crafted design. This starts with the cover - a uniformly black page with abstract and organic patterns overprinted in the same colour. Inside, half of the pages are folded, thus keeping from sight colour photographs of a woman who's identity viewers can only guess at as light pierces the thin fibres of paper.

To cut the pages or keep them sealed is up to the reader. “To open them is not the idea, though everyone does what they want in the end. I am very interested in the effect of appearance and disappearance”, López explains. And this, because the pages conceal his memories - those of his girlfriend with whom he visited islands all around the world before she left him. “That was when I decided to travel to Lanzarote. I wanted to go to an island, but one that was different than the ones we had visited together - one that was dryer, ‘lifeless’”, he remembers.

© Salva López, spread from the book, Illa

Within the barren landscapes of the island, he buried his pain and memories: time easing his wound. A sense of paradox floats throughout the book, with an atmosphere as peaceful and sacred as the black and white photos of volcanoes surrounding the blind pages. The black, dead-like, slopes of these giants that are among the world's most fertile grounds translate the circular aspect of life and emotions. “The last photo of a volcano, with white spots and a broken glass, represents that. The white dots are lichen, which is the first form of life that appears after a volcanic destruction. I like the idea that destruction is sometimes necessary for life to start again”, he explains.

The blind pages follow the discontinuous wave of memories: sometimes blank, sometimes crowded, and ultimately open. “The hidden pages start with a wound, and the woman is slowly becoming more distant throughout. At some point there is a spread with many pictures, which represents the saturation of memories that I experienced at that time.”

© Salva López, spread from the book, Illa

Feelings might be just like the sea: constantly washing up the bits that it had previously carried back from another place and time. The last memory photograph is left open, revealing a scar, a healed wound, as well as a slightly corrupted tattoo borrowed from The Little Prince that seems to have been erased by time and action too. “The waves at the end of the book are a kind of metaphor for the fact that we're only passing, and that things come and go and we thus have no idea what will happen in the future”, he concludes.


Illa by Salva López

24 cm x 32 cm // 33 folded leaflets + 1 centrefold leaflet + 10 pages + covers

Printed on Arcoprint Milk and Creator Gloss papers // First edition of 750 copies // €30



Salva López is a Spanish fine-art photographer exploring the landscapes of everyday life.

Laurence Cornet is a writer and curator based in Brooklyn focusing on cultural and environmental issues.

Written by

Laurence Cornet

Reading time

3 minutes