Peter Helms Feresten
Huevería La Granja, Madrid, Spain, 1991
It has been my great good fortune to live in Spain for a total of about two years. Most of that time was spent in Madrid. I also enjoyed a stay of about for months in Malaga, a Mediterranean seaport, in Andalucía.
My days were usually spent wandering favored districts bearing a wooden camera and tripod over my shoulder. I have always been fascinated by the occupied spaces, which serve as stage-sets for our lives.
Madrid is a very busy place. Each day is carefully organized to accommodate intense involvement in domestic and commercial activity. In each neighborhood, side streets are dotted with small stores, and workshops, which occupy the street level of most buildings. Diversity is insured by the strict specificity of each business. The restricted size of establishments assures the individuality, even idiosyncrasy of their décor. For decades, I have photographed interiors as the backdrop for a variety of activities, both ritual and routine. The richness of these commercial environments made my choice of subject matter easy.
Spaniards, despite the strength of their culture, are subject to all the pressures of modern society. As the Spanish economy advances, automobiles, computers, and telecommunications are transforming the physical and social landscape in ways that U.S. citizens would find all too familiar. Small shops are giving way to supermarkets, and shoes are more often discarded than repaired. Private night schools advertise a myriad of computing and language courses, as the government has ceased to support systems of apprenticeship. Craftsmen are easily engaged in discussions concerning the death of craftsmanship: “Los oficios estan terminando.” The present generation of craftsmen is the last.
In my wanderings, I encountered only one apprentice. In the famous workshop of Arcangel Fernandez De La Mata, works a young Japanese man learning the craft of making fine Spanish Guitars. He will bring his skill with him when he returns to Japan. At least we are assured that fine guitars will be available from some source.
Somewhere in the discussion of “culture”, we must consider the expression of our civilization through the daily exchange of food, lodging, and the necessities of everyday life. The interaction of neighbors in the conduct of their lives is the warp of human village life. There is an element of communion associated with repairing the shoes of one’s butcher. I offer to the viewer examples of simple environments associated with this very microeconomic intercourse. I leave it to the viewer to determine how much we may be sacrificing for the mobility and convenience that drives the uniformity of the very space that we occupy.