22 October 2009

Spanish Ghosts: Notes on the Locations

I provided some information at the Spanish Ghosts exhibition about the locations where the photographs were taken. These buildings and spaces have many intriguing stories behind them that add to their significance. Here are the descriptions:

Cortijo del Fraile: Federico Garcia Lorca’s Bodas de Sangre was inspired by a true story that appeared in a Spanish newspaper in 1928. A bride-to-be ran off with another man (her cousin) the night before the wedding, but the groom’s brother discovered the couple and shot and killed the lover. The bride-to-be lived on a farm called El Fraile. Over 75 years later, the ruins of the farm remain in the remote countryside of Nijar in Almeria, accessible only by a poorly marked, unpaved road. These images show part of the chapel building on the property.

Carabanchel: In October 2008, I spent two days photographing the interior of the former Carabanchel prison in Madrid, one of the most infamous architectural landmarks from Spain’s decades of dictatorship. General Francisco Franco ordered construction of the complex in the 1940s to house the regime’s many political prisoners. After the prison was finally closed in 1998, the building was heavily looted—all the metal gates and fixtures were removed—and it became a haven for graffiti artists, drug addicts, homeless immigrants and curious observers. The month after my visit the entire structure was demolished to make way for new development of condominiums and a hospital.

Santa Isabel: In 1966 the Beatles renounced performing live after more than four years of relentless touring around the world. As a change of pace, John Lennon took on the role of Private Gripweed in Richard Lester’s black comedy How I Won the War, which spent three months filming in the desert of Almeria, on the southern coast of Spain. John and his then-wife Cynthia rented a villa, known as Santa Isabel, from a wealthy local family. It was here that Lennon began writing the verses to Strawberry Fields Forever, immortalized on a series of low-fi recordings in which Lennon’s voice and acoustic guitar reverberate through the villa’s grand rooms. The grand house later fell into disrepair, but is now being renovated into a museum of cinema. These photographs were taken just before the renovations started.

Tabernas: During the 1960s and 1970s, the desert around Tabernas was used as a backdrop for numerous films, including Sergio Leone’s early Spaghetti Westerns starring Clint Eastwood. Film sets that Leone built to look like towns in the American West have been preserved in the dry climate and have now become a tourist destination for curious visitors and film fans. The remains of Leone’s Flagstone set from Once Upon a Time in the West are more remote, but the Phoenix Bank is still partially standing.

Cabo de Gata: The landscape of Cabo de Gata, along the coast of Almeria, is dotted with architectural remains. The photographs here show the interiors of an abandoned house marked with graffiti, a 19th century church adjacent to a salt-processing plant, and an 18th century fortification.

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