Txema Salvans – The Waiting Game
The Waiting Game, by Martin Parr
What is it about Spain, prostitution and photography? One of the best known collections of Spanish post war photographs is Joan Colom’s remarkable study of prostitutes hanging out in Barcelona. This was published as a book in 1964.
Many years later we have Txema Salvans’ set of photographs showing prostitution in urban and rural roadside locations. The women stand or sit on make shift chairs by the roadside, as their main clients are car drivers. The women jump into the cars, and the deed is done.
The difference in style between these two sets of photographs is clear. Colom’s work shows black and white, grainy caught moments from the stream-of-consciousness school, whereas Salvans produces 5/4 inch colour photos of landscapes with an almost hidden, isolated figure within the frame.
Prostitutes do not welcome being photographed, and Salvans employed a most cunning deception to help him get access to his models. Posing as a surveyor, working with an assistant holding a surveyor’s pole, and wearing the all important hi vis jacket, he slowly encroached on the prostitutes’ territory. The models were almost entirely oblivious to the fact that they were an essential part of the photographs. He could hardly believe this worked so well.
Spain is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. But the Spanish tourist board will not be knocking on Salvans’s door to license any of these photos as the urban landscape he depicts is not a pretty sight. It is however instantly recognisable to us – the no man’s land between the city and the countryside – is so well documented in these photographs. That strange and ugly mix that is so encroaching and so prolific. So as well as seeing the prostitutes in their remarkable settings we also learn about the contemporary urban landscape. Even without their central players this would be an impressive set of photographs.
It seems to me that Spain is now a fully matured photography territory, the new generation of photographers that is now emerging is a real force to be reckoned with. This is not Salvans’s first book. He produced the charming black and white publication ‘Nicetomeetyou’ in 2005. But this latest book for me constitutes a more mature, more rounded set of images. It is very exciting to see this new energy and direction. This wonderful set of photographs from Salvans makes a most positive contribution to a developing trend.
More images and other interesting series on the artist’s website. Txema Salvans (b. 1971) is a photographer from Barcelona and on his website you can find how he achieved happiness. Some great texts about his project on The Great Leap Sideways and GUP. The book can be purchased from PhotoEye, Amazon and other specialized bookstores.