Udo Kempen

Udo Kempen

Spain’s national day

by Udo Kempen (Germany)

I’m a german ecommerce specialist, born 1965 and started taking pictures in 2007. I attended the “storytelling” Workshop with Jane Evelyn Atwood in Barcelona because I am interested in photojournalism and am trying to improve my photography. As my project for this workshop, I photographed the demonstration on Spain’s National Day (Día de la Hispanidad, 12th Oct.) at Placa Catalunia, Barcelona.

Portfolio from the Photographie Narrative workshop with J-E Atwood, October 2012.

Written review by MARTA DAHÓ,
Independent curator and teacher of History of photography

Dear Udo, It is not necessary to remind which day those pictures were taken to know about what it is and what were the reasons of the protesters. However, a part from this 1st acknowledgement of the ideologies that arise from this abundance of spanish and catalan flags - probably, only possible by someone living in the country or very well informed - there is a tricky aspect in what evoke your pictures, probably as tricky as the ground of Placa Catalunya that rainy day.

With this delicate issue we are currently dealing with, since september 11th of this year to be more precise, the obvious difficulty to really tell what is going on and what is being celebrated, together with the vagueness of your point of view, is making the portfolio excessively ambiguous. I don’t know your knowledge of catalan situation or of this concept - a bit suspicious for a start - that is « Hispanity» but the question would be: ¿what are you really interested in telling?

From a certain point of view, your practice has been right: you tried to be where you could be, be open to the situations happening around you, sensitive to the tensions you felt.... All of this is very good, this is the 1st fundamental step. The problem is that you chose a particularly complex issue and a very complicated situation like usually are protests to photograph in an interesting way. It is there that I see the 2 issues of your situation: undetermined point of view of the story and a set of images which too often fall into the cliché and the anecdote.

A few examples: you do get intensity with your closeness and the importance you give to the faces - for example, picture 6 - however, the excess and repetition of some associations and symbols do not seem to me a good choice. Why do you start your series with 2 statues? The possible reference to a state of «petrification» which could be interpreted throughout several ways, we cannot avoid to think those are two female statues which illustrate a particularly conservative vision of women (idealized goddess according to male gender for the 1st one and mother, in the 2nd) . You could answer me: “well, a statue is a statue and now the nudity which brought scandal to the very 1st spectators is well covered with flags defending hispanic nation» . Ok, right, but you need to be careful to the monuments!

In your editing, there are more examples of symbols which are very close to the anecdotic and which repetition are one of the issues which burden the story. It’s such a brief selection, I think it is not necessary to show people making pictures with their mobile (souvenir pictures or pictures to spread the information). Another example would be the shop Baguetina Catalana with the skin-heads group (fast food shop really bad, created with the olympics game and only thought for tourists meant to taste the products once) or the image that you used as a close up which leaves the end so open and indefinite. All together, I mean it is legitimate to use photography as an acknowledgement instrument, in its heuristic modality. Problems arise when it is about telling a story which political and social context escapes us and which complexity avoids the journalistic style based on the spectacular aspect of the action and the absence of text description. This problematic is frequent including in the professional world, when photojournalists do not have the time to understand what they are going to report, but when a subject is chosen freely, like you, it is necessary to know what it’s going to bring, what reflexion you want to transmit and make sure it comes intact to the recipients.

Another question which seems prominent in your editing is the attention, maybe a bit insistent and repetitive, on the variety of protesters. Sure: celebration of « Hispanity» day brings a crowd that is quite diverse, all share the same political ideal, no matter they are 70 or 20 years old. All that said, I believe that as you come from a photographical practice - which I saw in your website - very formalistic and centered in a unique image, I believe the EIP’s workshop would have opened a new door to new forms of expression. And if this is the 1st exercise you do of this kind, it is quite all right. The lack of maturity can be balanced with a good training, a lots of work and your commitment to take care of those issues that you really care about and to which you want to bring something. Finally, here I give you a few references which have reported on protests, medias and photojournalism in very different and interesting ways. I hope they will call your attention. Good luck in everything.

Bruno Arbesú (específicamente el proyecto Mítines) www.bruno.arbesu.site.picturetank.com

Bruno Baumgarten Blocking the G8 www.nicobaumgarten.net/reportage/blocking- the-g8/

Mattias Bruggmann www.ou-t.ch/2003/matt/

Bruno Serralongue www.brunoserralongue.com spanish .

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