A woman sitting on a sofa, a deserted road, a painting on a wall… and many more. Apart from being in Spain, what do those photographs have in common ? Maybe a certain sense of quietness or the praise of an appeasement. I love the title of the book : country fictions. It can both means a documentary about rural life or a representation of the countryside by the distorted imagination of an urban citizen.
Everything here is about contemplation and slowness, we almost hear the time passing. People are lying, sitting or staring at the camera or at something out of the frame. There is a romantic representation of the landscapes which reminds us the painters from XIXth century like Caspar David Friedrich (the old woman at the end of the book contemplating the valley or the view pasted on the cover) and an utopian one, which refers to the writings of Henry David Thoreau, particularly in “Walden or, Life in the Woods”.
What we never know in the book is the reason why those persons are living in the countryside. There are houses but also trailers, caravans and tents and we can’t avoid to have in mind the economic state of Spain and the very high rate of unemployment. The country fictions are probably made of urbans who wanted to find more place and time, but maybe also of poor people who found an alternate way of life: unemployed and working poor people could not afford to stay in cities where rental costs are prohibitive. It is also about a regained pride, the values are not the same, and whatever their homes are, they feel comfortable and happy at home.
We feel a strong empathy for those people, because they seem to be “available”. When we cross their sight, we feel they were waiting for us. We could have a chat, share some moments and maybe learn a bit from them. Learn how we can use the time differently, learn what are valuable things in regard of life.
This book could be the complete opposite of Paul Graham The Present. The photographic process is very similar, building some strongly composed photographs. Working on the concept of street photography (which is a urban concept), the photographs of Graham define some gushing views, we can’t enter them, they are already fulfilled by enough people and no one care for each other.
The book ends with a poem about the quest for something better… in the future…
Country Fictions by Juan Aballe can be purchased here.
Christer Ek is a French photographer and also a photobook collector. You can read his excellent photobook related blog, where this post originated here