Closed for Winter
Southwest Spain is not as big a tourist spot as the nearby Costa del Sol. Over to the West, in the province of Cadiz, summer and tourism had a very different flavour during my childhood and youth years. In the summer, hordes of national holiday makers from nearby provinces would flock to our Atlantic beaches. This would relieve them from having to endure the scorching temperatures typically endured in inland Spain in the months of July and August. My family, friends and I, on the other hand, would just feel lucky to already be in the place where everyone seemed to want to go and would never leave on a summer holiday.
During these summer months our city would double or triple its population in a matter of days. Simultaneously our summer friends from Seville and Madrid would visit us in our city and both local and far away friends would gather together to hear the tales from the big city. But however special these long summers were, a bittersweet feeling always lingered. We knew that after this short and intense burst of activity, once September arrived, we would be abruptly returned to the tedious routine of our off-season lives.
I have lived away from Cadiz now for over 22 years and although the place has changed beyond recognition and Spanish tourists now look further ashore for exoticism, my memories still perdure. Closed for Winter is partly a testimony to these distant memories of youth."
“Eddie: You know, it’s funny. You come to some place new and... and everything looks just the same”
Jim Jarmusch 1984, Stranger than Paradise
Tourism development has been spatially focused on the beach since the 1950’s as the slogan of the four ‘S’ of tourism – sun, sand, surf and sex – The coast has become one of the fastest areas of growth of the tourism industry and European views of the beach are embodied by notions of utility. This has replaced the worship of the sea and the image of nature dominating human existence (1). However the coastal resorts are very seasonal and they follow the natural rhythm of the seasons. In some cases, like those resorts on tropical islands or in the Caribbean, seasons do not play such an important role. However most of the beach resorts in Europe have periods, in the summer, when they peak and times when they close for winter. ‘Rhythms imply repetition and can be defined as movement’ (2), Lefebvre continues by clarifying the different kinds of rhythms. The ones that concern us are the ‘cyclical rhythms’ such as the natural cycles of the moon, the sun, the stars, the tides and the seasons. These cycles affect the economies, professional occupations and leisure activities of the resort’s inhabitants.
I look into a photograph, I see an empty and bleak landscape, the tarmac, a fence dividing and separating the space, the big emptiness of the sea, the grey and cloudy sky, and there in the centre stands what remains of a basketball panel (Cape Trafalgar 01). This image makes me question the functionality of this place. It seems you are invited to stop and look, to contemplate this Monument. But perhaps this is not what its developers intended, this image suggests a disconnection between design and usage. The architect works with a flat surface, an empty sheet of paper on which something is imagined. The architect believes that these marks left on the blank paper correspond to something that will, eventually, be out there in the real world (3) but, will it? The first assumption is to believe that these lines on paper will be faithfully transformed into tangible real places. The second assumption is to expect the consumers of these places will follow the predicted ways of usage once envisaged by the architect.
And while during the sunny days of summer these places are fully functional and active, in the winter, they remain static with little function, they almost seem to be waiting for the next warm sunny day. The elements gradually invade the features in these landscapes. Bad weather takes over from the visitors and tourists as its only inhabitant, changing the landscape, eroding the infrastructures and the signs of human presence. Yet, there is a sense of purpose in these places, the design and lay out are in some cases conducive to the activities they offer: sit and look at the distant hills and soak up the feeble winter sun while having a break from daily obligations; walk along the path to see and be seen (Lake Como 02). The only incongruity is the lack of activity in a place that is well suited for it. Thus Winter also presents us with an experience of non-participation.
In Winter, I try to explore photography unfinished ambiguous qualities. On the one hand it can reveal, record and convey information with extreme clarity and on the other this same information can be inaccurate, ambiguous and unreliable. It is precisely the contradictory nature of photography that makes possible this paradox. This is a fundamental topic in photographic theory and relates closely to the issues I explore in my work. This ambiguity, this partial meaning photography has to offer is, indeed, one of the main components of my photographic practice. I am not really interested in showing the true qualities of that that I photograph, I try to deceive and manipulate the senses when photographing.
By not documenting these places true qualities I aim to allow viewers to interpret them more freely. Thus, I have endeavored to empty this collection of images of my impressions and opinions. I have let the metaphorical snow cover every inch of my photographs and to take away all the information that was unnecessary (my anecdotes, my experiences, my feelings). These photographs then, I hope, become empty landscapes, places of inner immensity where we can wander and wonder with our eyes from side to side and back again and find our own daydreams (4). In this way when we look at these photographs, I hope we become the architects of these internal spaces, creating our own world of meanings and functions for the objects and landscapes we see. These out-of-season resorts are vacant spaces with multiple utilities. On the one hand the obvious functions they have been designed for and on the other hand anything we can imagine ‘Immensity is within ourselves’ (5)
(1) Hall, Page (1999) The Geography of Tourism and Recreation, London: Routledge
(2), (3)Lefebvre, H (1996) Writings on Cities, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing
(4), (5) Bachelard, G (1964) The Poetics of Space, Boston: Beacon