We Can't Stop What's Coming
...a zine about the world as we knew it
So I made a zine. It took a bit longer than expected. My tendency to over-tweak things got the better of me for a while. But I soon realised that, with subjective pursuits like photography, there is no such thing as perfection. So I embraced the wabi-sabi and have now released it into the wild. And because I learned a few things along the way, I thought it best to write them down.
In a nutshell, this zine is a record of the world as we knew it. I use the word Record because I took the photographs with a similar stream-of-consciousness mentality as Daido Moriyama in his long-running magazine series of that name. And it is in that vein I made the images for, We Can't Stop What's Coming, a collection of street scenes from the Spanish capital, before it became an epicentre for COVID-19 and its inhabitants were relieved of their civil liberties - a decision I found difficult to accept at the time and was no easier to fathom with hindsight. But I was just a visitor to Madrid, and my countries of citizenship were about to follow suit anyway. So like almost everyone else, my captivity was a fait accompli.
To begin with, I was reluctant to mine the pandemic for project ideas as I presume most people are tired of the topic by now. I know I am. But historical cases of state overreach should not be swept under the carpet. And for cathartic reasons, I need to say my piece and move on. Besides, these images are effectively pre-pandemic because the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak as such on March 11, 2020. And all 28 photographs in the zine are from January and February.
My presence in Madrid was due to my enrolment on a documentary photography and reportage course at IED, which meant up until the city went into lockdown in mid-March, I was on the streets taking pictures of daily life. There is no storyline threading these photographs together. Instead, their meaning comes from the unprecedented events that followed and my own lockdown struggles in Spain and the UK. To that extent, this is a retrospective project about a time and a place.
The genesis of this project occurred when I returned to Madrid in early 2023 - an event that resurrected my love-hate relationship with the city. Madrid was a pivotal moment in my photographic journey. I was orienting my life in a new, more fulfilling direction. But the pandemic response threw a spanner in that plan and left my hopes for the future up in the air.
Then I remembered something Martin Parr told us on that course I mentioned. A well-tagged archive is a source of project ideas. I looked through mine and contemplated a before-and-after project. But with no visible signs of an aftermath, I decided to articulate a concept playing on my mind. The cover image is the only reference of my return.
Over the years, I have come to think of photography as an act of self-discovery. By selecting the images that resonate with us, we reveal the memories, feelings, values and cultural preferences that make us tick. These images remind me of the freedoms I took for granted. Their return, in some ways, feels superficial. The relationship between the state and the individual seems different now. The boundaries have shifted. Liberty is only ours until the authorities find a reason to take it away. It is a sobering reality. Or, to use their words, a new normal.
When editing the series, I focused on the virtues of everyday people and used unposed snapshots to represent their values and characteristics. From a Jungian perspective, they are the Everyman. With their honest, down-to-earth nature and empathy for the pain of others, they are the most centred among us. But their likeability and trustworthiness disguise a disdain for elitism. That last point feels appropriate because this echelon of society was impacted disproportionately by the virus and the draconian measures the authorities put in place.
To evoke the memory of a bygone era, I used the Fujifilm Classic Chrome colour profile to give the photographs an unsaturated look reminiscent of classic documentary imagery. The sequence and layout concentrate on pairings and groups that complement each other in colour and content to create a tranquil harmonious mood, which juxtaposes what's coming.
Like photography, writing lets me know what I think and feel. One is instinctual and outward-looking, while the other is more considered and introspective. So in that way, they complement each other and help me understand what type of photographer I am. The zine includes a 650-word essay of my reflections on that time in Madrid.
For me, Madrid was the beginning of a new direction. So it makes sense to start my zine series there. We Can't Stop What's Coming is the first part of a trilogy and is available to purchase, click here.
Future zines are already in the works. The next instalment is titled Boy in the Better Land, covering my exile in Mexico between 2021 and 2023. Subscribe if you would like a notification of its release.
Acknowledgements: Being a member of the Raw Society has its perks. I thank Jorge Delgado-Ureña and Christelle Enquist for their mentoring and inspiration. You can find Jorge on Substack at The Photographer's Journal.