Two emerging photographers shoot "dead meat" in their hometown, Lorca - and a lost generation of young Spaniards
“In all of our work we are looking for the unusual, but what impressed us most was seeing people treating the pigs as if they were already chorizo or jamón,” says JD Valiente.
“During the fair, a stall was offering free tastings of typical pork products – chorizo, black pudding, ham, loin, bacon, etc – and beer. That attracted a fairly large queue that people joined four or five times – refilling their dishes with what they had already eaten to start the queue again, eating and drinking, to ask for more.”
He’s talking about Semana Porcina [‘Pork Week’], an industrial livestock and food farming fair that’s held annually in Lorca, south east Spain. He headed to the fair last November with another photographer, Sole González, and together they shot Fiambre – a title that translates as “dead body”, inspired by the way the delegates looked at the pigs.
“There was a surreal atmosphere, the pigs walking their ‘catwalk’ watched by spectators eating montaditos [small sandwiches],” says González. “Above all, we were interested in studying the human behaviour. We found an interesting mix of people – from ham lovers looking to be entertained, to kids playing with the animals, to people looking at the pigs ready to be killed.”
Born in 1986 and 1989 respectively, Valiente and González grew up in the same neighbourhood in Lorca, and are partners in both life and work. Their images have a distinctive look and feel – as BJP‘s Diane Smyth found out in March, when she paired them on Der Greif‘s curated online guest room. Der Greif also selected them for a group show, A Process 2.0, which was shown at Krakow Photomonth last summer.
Valiente and González work solo but they’re also currently making another joint series – Mugre [‘dirt’], portraits of punky, nihilistic young people in Spain. To them it “reflects people’s precarious mentality in these times of economic crisis without hope of a better future”: “We are trying to represent this lost generation,” explains González, “depicting people that cannot think further than the day are living.”
“Nowadays in Spain you would be extremely lucky to get a good job, most of the people we know are unhappy with their work,” adds Valiente, and it’s problem he knows first-hand, because he’s also experienced it himself – he was forced to move back to Lorca, he says, when he couldn’t find work elsewhere.
It’s an experience he’s summing up with another series, a solo project he’s calling Insomnia. “It’s a long-term project that represents a stage of my life, a bad period that I hope to close soon,” he says.
“Coming back to a village, where there is nothing to do, where everyone knows you and it seems to controls your life, made me feel anxious and overwhelmed – so much so, I couldn’t sleep. Through photography, I can express what I’ve gone through during this phase, trying to coexist with my situation and everything that surrounds me.”