In our article series, Making a Moment, we’re asking photographers to share one of their favorite photos that they’ve taken. We want to know the story behind the final image and everything that went into making it.
Today we’re talking to Manel Esteban, aka @manu2021, from Catalonia, Spain. Manel is a Catalan language teacher at a high school. He’s been hooked on photography since he was a child and over the years has found his way from analogue, to digital, and back to analogue. Manel has been featured in our magazine before with his pinhole tutorial, as well as his experimentations with infrared photography.
He is currently finishing his PhD in Social Studies in Madrid and also studying a postgraduate on “Creation and Thought” photography at Institut d’Estudis Fotogràfics de Catalunya (IEFC) in Barcelona. He tells us that for him photography represents the art of evoking the elusive moments of light.
Manel: The result you see here was completely unexpected, which usually happens on pinhole pictures shot in a can of biscuits. You never know if there will be anything on the positive paper until you get into your darkroom under the safety light and develop it.
It was taken in July of 2022 amidst a heavy heat wave. Together with a friend of mine we made up our minds to take the car inbound for Soria, a beautiful city in Central Northern Spain, with cooler temperatures.
When you leave Catalonia towards north west central Spain, we must go through multiple and eclectic ranges of landscapes, one of which is the desert of Los Monegros, in the province of Zaragoza. Before getting into that area along the road, you can spot the silhouette of the black bull, “El Toro.”
At the very beginning, back in 1956, it was used to advertise the “brandy de Jerez”, branded by Osborne Sherry Company. Nowadays it is a cultural identity icon of our country, even though a new regulation on roadside advertising in 1988 prohibited such advertising billboards and it should have been removed. Luckily, the most important decisions go slowly in Spain, and the Congress of Deputies in 1994 declared this billboard part of the “cultural and artistic heritage of the people of Spain.” Lucky us, the bull stayed up!
I believe this picture tells us more about Spain and Spaniards than a beautiful picture of Sagrada Familia, of any beach on Ibiza, of Plaza de España in Seville, or of any other touristic spot in Spain.
This is a pinhole picture taken out of a square can of chocolates. As you know, I like making my own pinhole cameras very much. And this, not only for an economical and environmental issue, but also for the magic brought with it. It’s like watching fireflies on hot nights in the garden. There they are, shining for a short time! Carpe Diem. Isn’t it an idyll? So is the pinhole can! Catching the elusive light.
You only need a can, a needle, textile adhesive black ribbon, positive paper, a chronometer, a tripod, a magnet to hold the can on the tripod, and a lot of patience. For the paper I put in the box, I normally use Fomaspeed Variant 311 Multigrade Glossy. I like glossy paper in the can because the negative you get is cleaner and shiny.
On this trip I knew we would be spotting “toros” and told my friend we would stop when we saw one. It was kind of planned, yes, but as I said before, with a pinhole can you never know. It was about four in the afternoon, under 38ºC when we were entering the desert area. After a tight curve on the road, we saw the rear part of the billboard. My friend, who was driving, wanted us to stop for me to take the picture, but I didn’t fancy that view as we could see the iron framework, the skeleton that supports the silhouette.
Again, after another curve, there was the last service area with a huge car park. Empty. Obviously it was ‘siesta’ time. “Get there! Get there!” I shouted. So, we parked under the sun, in the middle of that loneliness, and we had the most magnificent view on “El Toro.” After that, there was the hardest work to do. I had to imagine where the pinhole was pointing at, the sun was vertical which is a very bad position for the pinhole photography, but I took the risk. And there it is!
Actually, when I developed it at home in my darkroom, I thought nothing was on the paper as a heavy black round spot showed up. It was really frustrating, for sure. But I didn’t surrender - a good Lomographer never does. When I enlarged it, there was the bull! An impressive animal!
Thanks a lot for giving me the chance to talk a bit about a picture I love.
Thank you to Manu for sharing his story with us! To see more of his experimental photography check out his LomoHome.
In this series of articles we're asking you to share the story behind your favorite photo. Interested in being featured? Email email@example.com with the subject line - Making a Moment.