I had to dig back in the archives as far as May to get a few of these shots–a difficult task as my dropbox photo cloud approaches 6,00 photos. It was worth the effort though, as I was able to find th photo I was looking for, as well as a few extras that hadn’t made it to the blog. All of this post’s images are of famous people, some of them real celebrities, while two others are famous characters from the small screen. The two fictional faces come from two of the most popular series on TV, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. They come to us from artist Axe Colours, who was previously featured for his portrait of Walter White from another popular TV show, Breaking Bad. In the third image you can see the artist at work. The other three are pop culture icons in real life, Annie Lennox, Anthony Perkins, and Amy Winehouse–with who I think might be Rihanna in the lower right corner. Another image shows a curious mashup of Mickey Mouse and a scowling Madonna.
The majority of the shots in this post (including the first-ever shot of myself) are the work of the urban pop artist TVBOY. They are part of a series of famous artists from the past with touches of the present, including a Frida Kahlo Iphone selfie–the shot in which I couldn’t resist joining the famous Mexican artist for a rare narcissistic arm’s length self-portrait. The shot of Serge Gainsbourg comes from the artist Valerie Maho, and the great Muhammad Ali in stencil was created by RAF Urban. The other image (from sm172) which I’ve included is a darker reflection on our pop-selfie culture and is a statement on the voyeuristic bystander syndrome which seems to be a side effect of all of us being able to record and photograph all that we see, while forgetting to experience it, or get involved when necessary.
This year’s Festa Major de Gràcia featured a new entry into the decorated streets: la Plaza del Poble Rumaní, the theme of which was one of the biggest cultural contributions from Gràcia’s vibrant gypsy community: la Rumba Catalana. While the decorations themselves had a difficult time competing with the more experienced streets, one feature which stood out from the rest was a huge mural which was painted on the wall of a neighboring school.
The mural is a collaboration between local schools, the local gypsy community, and the organization acidH (Catalan Association for Integration and Human Development). The three artists who participated are well-known in the Barcelona street art scene and this blog: Xupet Negre, Caesar Baetulo (sm172), and konair.
The images on the mural are a mix of the artists’ trademark characters and icons of Catalan culture.
The phrase “operación retorno” refers to the slow, but steady reverse exodus back to the cities (and reality) after the August holidays. I’m fortunate to start off with a fairly abbreviated schedule in order to ease myself back into the routine. To close off the month of August, and the lazy, hazy summer of 2016, I present to you the second installment of the photo highlights from the Festa Major of Gràcia.
Just yesterday, the annual Festa Major of Gràcia came to a fiery end with the Correfocs (fire runners) spreading sparks through the narrow streets of the neighborhood. The sea (including lots and lots of my favorite animal, the jellyfish) was a recurring theme in the decorated streets this year. Indeed, this year’s first prize winner was a brilliant under-the-sea motif featuring a giant fisherman, whose feet became the victims of vandals later in the week. In case you’re curious, here is a list of this year’s winners (in Catalan). Worth noting is that habitual winner Verdi has fallen to 7th position, with a California/Holywood-themed decor. Other themes included theatre, birthday party, a fantasy plant world, a commemoration of 20 years of participation, and women’s history.
Without further ado, here is the first installment of shots from this year’s grand festival.
Having a dog is a great excuse to get out and explore new areas of the city. My latest trips have taken me uphill, where the views of the city and the sea are marvelous, and there is also some nice street art hiding in the steep hills above the city.
The first few pictures come from the area near the Bunkers del Carmel, which served as the city’s defenses from fascist aerial attacks during the Spanish Civil War. The views are spectacular, and if you go during the week, you might be able to recapture some of the secluded off-the-beaten-track appeal. At the top of the hill you can find some walls which are painted with some murals, including one of the famous literary figure Don Quixote.
The rest of the photos are from the Vallcarca neighbourhood, which lies just next to Park Güell. This area is worth exploring as there are some interesting buildings and plazas, as well as some spectacular views of Barcelona spreading out toward the Mediterranean.
The dog days of summer are probably not the best time to explore this area as the sun seems to beat down a bit harder the higher you get, but a cloudy day in early autumn would be perfect for a climb, and besides, the pictures come out shadow-free on cloudy days.
For my second May post (which is actually hitting in June) I’ve decided to return to Gràcia, as I haven’t posted much from the surrounding area lately. Most of these shots come from strolls around the vila over the last three or four weeks. As suggested in the title, one of the more interesting ones is a portrait of tourists as paella-wielding, selfie-sticked zombie hordes who come to invade our quiet little neighbourhood nearly year-round. This sentiment can be seen in occasional graffiti which read “tourists go home”. As a foreigner who first came as a tourist, I’m a bit torn; while I recognize that tourism is vital to our local economy, and that a good majority of tourists are well-behaved and civilized, I also know as a resident what a putada it can be having the area so constantly crowded. On balance, I’m in favour of tourism, but I think that we need to start moving toward a more sustainable model. This is what the current city administration (in theory) is going for–a city planned and built for its residents, but also welcoming for tourists. A difficult happy medium to achieve, but a noble objective, in my humble opinion.
The other shots are rather random and generally political in nature, along with some anthropomorphized popsicles from konair, and some paste ups which have been appearing with increasing frequency.
Every August, my neighbourhood of Gràcia celebrates its annual summer festival in which many streets are decorated by the residents, concerts are held and you can find vendors selling everything to homemade soaps and crafts to cheeses and traditional food products. The population of the “barri” goes up by about tenfold and the streets are abuzz from about 10 in the morning until the local police start moving people out of the area around three in the morning.
The pictures you’ll find here are mostly daylight (as the evenings have become nearly impossible to navigate due to the crowds and seas of selfie-sticks being carelessly waved about. There are a few night shots, but only when I was fortunate enough to find a hole in the crowds.
The winner of this year’s contest was no big surprise, Verdi street, which almost always takes the grand “premi”. Verdi’s theme this year was Japan, and it seems the spring cherry blossom festival. Other street themes included Avatar (I think I’m one of three people on earth who’s not part of an uncontacted tribe who hasn’t seen the Cameron blockbuster), the four seasons (“estacions” in Catalan), one street and a plaza devoted to art and artists, a circus theme, sweets and cakes, cornfields, two radioactive waste sites, a virtual zoo (which by the time I arrived had taken quite a beating from both the rain and drunken decoration thieves), and just one protest-oriented street which is quite near my house. The protest street was inspired by the iaioflautas, a protest group who, despite their age,are one of the most active when there are street demonstrations anywhere in Spain. Another spectacular street was dedicated to the Moulin Rouge, complete with a large-scale model of the Eiffel Tower, which was cordoned off later in the week as its base began to give way.
This event is one of my favourites of the year, though it seems to be rapidly outgrowing the neighbourhood, as the number of tourists visiting Barcelona continues to grow exponentially.
You’ll note that the gallery this year is huge, so I’ve placed it after the text. It’s actually a pared-down version of what’s on my memory card. I just didn’t want to leave anyone out.