Fran Simó

S’Arenal Summertime 2016

Magazine, 36 pages, 22×28 cm (Letter format)

“… the fundamental thing I am constantly exploring is the difference between the mythology of a place and the reality of it.” (Martin Parr por Martin Parr, La Fábrica, 2010)

When Parr spoke about the mythology of a place, immediately postcards, tourist catalogs and promotional videos came to mind. But the tourist myth goes beyond the construction of a consumer-oriented icon.

I was born in Villa Carlos Paz, Argentina, a self-proclaimed “touristic city”. In 1998, at the age of 25, I immigrated to Barcelona, ​​to the Sagrada Familia neighborhood. In 2014, I moved to Palma de Mallorca. The tourism industry has been a constant in my life.

My seasonality is related to the tourist seasons, not the crops. The summer, the sun, the beach, the smell of sunscreen, the peeling skin, the excessive sunlight, the sound of the water, the waves and the children playing on the beach have never been something I had to go to some destination to find; I’ve always had them at home. I’ve always had a beach less than a kilometer away from my place of residence.

From that perspective tourism has always been: those who come and those who live at the destination. We both share the same space, sometimes playing the same ludic role.

Those who come follow the myth in the holiday ritual, a key element of the capitalist religion. Be it to escape, read, play, meet family or friends, a destination of sun and beach is the industry’s myth par excellence.

Those of us who live there mix with the tourists inside the myth of the destination at some point. But our illusion has other dimensions. For the residents or those who have come to stay, the promise of work and progress turns into the transformation of the landscape, agglomerations, immigration, day laborers, impromptu entrepreneurs who arrive at the destination to make a quick buck …

The tourism industry creates a myth but not just for the consumer. Almost all my life I have made a living directly or indirectly through tourism. I think that tourism is essentially a good thing, I love receiving tourists and being a tourist. But many inhabitants of destinations do not manage to integrate and rather than enjoy the exchange suffer from the invasion. This difference is a consequence of the lack of sensitivity on the part of the industry’s agents and all of us who are involved should take it into account to guarantee sustainability.

The Process

The photographs for S’Arenal Summertime 2016 were taken throughout 11 sessions between July 2 and September 18, 2016, between 11 am and 2 pm, usually on weekends, walking almost without stopping in an almost straight line, starting on Amilcar Street and heading towards Can Pastilla, with the sun behind me.

This shaped three types of images:

  • Facing forward, the image divided in two: the city on the horizon, the sky above, the sea below forms a triangle that suggests an arrow pointing to the right that the triangle of the sand completes.
  • Facing left, the typical view of the sand, the sea and the sky.
  • Facing right we find portraits of people relaxing on the sand with the city and the hotels in the backgound.

The images are digital. For “developing” I used a filter that simulates Fuji “Velvia” film, traditionally used by nature and travel photographers for catalogs and magazines. Fuji designed “Velvia” color palette based on the “Memorized color” concept and continued research into how a memory is represented based on questions such as “What are the colors that stay strong in people’s memory?”, leaving behind exact representation in favor of evoking a memory not as something far away or in the past but rather as if “it was here right now.”

The electronic version is not just an extra distribution format. Choosing the screen as an exhibition medium allows the images to transmit color and light. For me, one of the main sensations of the beach is the light intensity. The paper fits well with the concept of a travel magazine or a tourist catalog, but the screen reinforces the intensity of the sun.

The creative process of S’Arenal Summertime 2016 integrates and continues previous work. It draws upon my first project on beaches “Sant Sebastiá, Barceloneta, 2009-2013” combined with all the ones related to intuitive photography, drifting and geo-location, automatic selection (without thinking), immediate publication on social networks and, of course, street photography.

During the walks, the photographs were taken without thinking, sometimes even without framing. The preliminary selection was done during the return trip, on public transport, after displaying each photo for only a few seconds. Before getting home, I would publish a group of images on social networks. The viewers’ feedback (in private messages or on the same networks) helped with the process of understanding the subject.

Next, the whole archive remained untouched for a few months, after which a new reading began, going through the material a few times. After the first three rounds about 90% of the images were discarded. The 10% that were left went through various rounds of selection based on grouping, themes and technical possibilities.

These 10% were worked with in the final format and as far as publication, various trial prints were made using different printing providers, types of paper, etc.