Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Photo Reality

Kids tuckered out from day long processions take a break. (Click image to enlarge)
Recent photographs I made in Sevilla, Spain over Easter week drew quite a reaction from folks back home. I'm not surprised. All these people wearing long robes and hoods. At first, the impact of what I was seeing targeted my core as well and revealed my lack of knowledge to Spain's religious celebrations or the origins of the garments. In the U.S., it means something very different.

Observing individual parish members of the processions parading through Sevilla dressed in penitential robes with pointed hoods with eye-holes, can smack American visitors hard. The resemblance of the trademark costumes worn by the U.S. terrorist group Ku Klux Klan is a tough nut to overcome. It raised a lot of questions for me on how to photograph these marvelous celebrations  without the inherited prejudice. After all, images of the KKK in their white robes and hoods are entrenched into generations of Americans as a symbol of hatred and racism. I felt I needed to be extra careful in how I photographed this so not to promote any negative observations.

It was important to educate myself on what the costumes meant. Since the Middle Ages, around 1350, parish members have dressed wearing these capirotes (robes and hoods) so the faithful could repent in anonymity. After a few days of photographing the different parishes marching through the cobblestone streets of Sevilla, watching families walk together in the processions, mothers attending to their kids as they adjusted and tightened robes and hoods, full of hugs and smiles, the joys of celebration rang clear.

Personally, I found my greatest comfort in photographing the kids. The experience was new to them. They were caught up in the pageantry just as I was. It was real, imperfect and genuine. Soon, the intolerance and bias I had been carrying due to the clothing disappeared. Witnessing the passion a culture holds for their faith was a joy to photograph.

Still,  I am amazed how powerful the prejudice of the robe and hoods clings to the visual definitions I had growing up. Photography has more power of influence than most believe. And the comments I had gotten after sharing these back home verified this. I simply tried to find moments that promoted the positive aspects of Spaniards celebrating the Week of Saints.

Many parishes participate in processions for the Week Of The Saints during the Easter week of celebrations in Sevilla. Night and day tens of thousands of people line to streets to watch the events. Each parish has its own style of clothing and wear colors reflecting that of their parish. Its a family event full of festivities and community. Sevilla is the heart of Spain's  massive Easter procession activities. But, cities and villages across the country hold their own procession events.

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