A Cypress tree takes a bow as a cat crosses the street, then stops in its tracks lifting its back leg to scratch his belly with absolutely no care in the world. On the contrary, my adrenaline is tweaked as I drive along unaware of what I will find. Everything seems so different than what I imagined and remember from when I was growing up. I felt I was traveling into the cusp of a change, a transition, like the calm before a storm.

I was born and grew up in North Myrtle Beach, a coastal town in South Carolina along Highway 17, that curiously and literally wraps around another community called Atlantic Beach. Both are part of The Grand Strand, primarily a resort area with over 14 million visitors a year and an estimated 329,500 in population that stretches along 60 miles in an almost rectangular shape along the Eastern seaboard.

Towards its tail end, heading north along Highway 17 are four city blocks stemming perpendicular from the highway towards the ocean and some six blocks than run parallel, isolating Atlantic Beach from North Myrtle Beach. There are no other roads, other than Hwy 17, that lead from one community to the other.

The ocean boulevard is fenced off on both sides. Only a bike path and walking trail is accessible, creating limited entry. If you walk along the shoreline, it’s obvious where this area begins and ends because the high-rises suddenly stop and big green metallic signs mark the city limits of North Myrtle Beach on either side. Only then, the precious sea oats and sand dunes enjoy their unobstructed views.

As a white middle class girl back in the 1970s and 80s, when I still lived in North Myrtle Beach, I had no reason to go to Atlantic Beach. It was still racially segregated, mostly by choice and had begun to disintegrate, letting drugs and prostitution ruin its historical reputation. You see, from the late 1930s all the way into the 60s this was one of the liveliest places for blacks in the segregated south because it was one of the only beaches, as far as my research has led, where they were socially allowed to go and enjoy recreational activities in and around the ocean, all the way from Virginia, where highway 17 begins, to Georgia. Later, in 1966, a state charter was issued making it the first and only black-owned oceanfront town, and as far as I know — please correct me if I am not — it still remains one of the only black-governed and owned beaches in the nation.

Only a handful of people walk along the beachfront and the ones I came across were varied in color. It’s clean, the sand dunes and sea oats enjoy their peaceful view and a few impressive “cottages” have been built within the last few years but many of the old buildings have been boarded up or completely ripped apart by hurricanes or old age. There is a quirky eeriness about it all.

It´s Saturday afternoon. Right between two local businesses on the main street, several middle-aged white men and an older black man wearing a baseball cap talk loudly as they hang out drinking Budweiser beer out of a can. Meanwhile, a women in a beat-up car with two kids in the back drive by, her head turning from one side to another. Either she’s lost or is looking for someone so when she finally gets to the end of the street she makes a U-turn. Most people, when making a U-turn are unaware that they´re heading into a different territory. Once they make their way down to Atlantic Beach they realize that the ocean boulevard is blocked by fences and the road suddenly terminates.

I moved away from “the beach”, as we locals call our town, back in 1987. The last time I was there was 3 years ago during my summer vacation when a friend invited me to join her at the Atlantic Beach Jazz Festival. I remember being impressed by the atmosphere I found: incredible talent by African American musicians and a very relaxed community that welcomed everyone with a big smile. As I sat on a lounge chair that afternoon, drinking wine, watching the sun set behind the stage and enjoying the beautiful sounds, an overwhelming sensation came over me. This was definitely a special place.

Upon my return this year, during the Christmas holidays, I decided to take my camera and act upon those feelings. I wanted to learn more about the history of this community before it changed.

An unusual fog had rolled in, created by the contrast of warm weather and humidity adding a certain sense of mystery to the stark white winter mood of this little town. I felt the fog portrayed its unique history and current situation.

During my research I had the chance to speak with some very competent people who have taken a personal interest in saving this beachfront area from being massified, Yes, they want their community to prosper as long as it preserves not only an important part of its American history, but of its Black American history as well.

When blues, jazz and R&B bands performed along the Grand Strand they usually spent the night in Atlantic Beach where they continued to play in jam sessions way into the early morning hours. Artists included Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Otis Redding, Fats Domino, Little Richard… Among the lucky listeners were the privileged people who could bring their families to Atlantic Beach on holidays.

I truly hope to see this historical community evolve and prosper so that others can enjoy its fortunate location and beauty in the years to come. May the Black Pearl once again preserve its nature and find its way back into the eyes of the world.

During my free time, I took a trip to Los Angeles to do a story for El País Semanal, and I was captivated by some characters. A normal thing in L.A. and especially on Hollywood Boulevard is to see a lot of people adopting different personalities. Even if their faces are disguised, covered up or distorted, they are people like you or me with their opinions and conversations, as you can see in this video taken by journalist Alvaro Corcuera.

Last week was the presidential elections in the United States, and as an American living in Spain I was happy to wake up in my country during Election Day. The next morning is when the conversation between Superman and El Monstruo about Obama’s victory took place. And when I took this picture of Spiderman. He, Superman, The Monster and Obama are people (in disguise) and I am a fan of them.

Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles.
This picture is shot with a Hasselblad 501CM and digital back, with a 40mm ISO 200 lens, shot 125 F. 5.6.

Charred Hall, National Democratic Party Building, Cairo, Egypt, April 2012.

The headquarters of the NDP, the National Democratic Party of Egypt, was burned down on 28 January 2011 during the Arab Spring Revolution. The building housed the party of the then president, Hosni Mubarak, state commissions such as the Human Rights and Women’s Commission, a bank and other official political offices. In April this year we were invited to Cairo for a couple of days by a group of journalists to get to know the city, before participating in the International Conference on Tourism and the Media, held in Marsa Alam on the Red Sea.

During the tour we stopped at the Egyptian Museum and from the garden it is absolutely impossible not to notice the back of the burnt-out NDP building.

So as my journalist friends and my photographic instinct that cannot be resisted have taught me, I left the group to satisfy my curiosity. Standing in front of the large, high iron gates at the entrance, I noticed that they were open. So I took my adventure a little further. I didn’t want to go alone to avoid an unpleasant surprise like finding some security guard or an upset policeman, so I returned to the museum to join the first colleague I met. With our hearts pounding, a trickle of sweat running down our foreheads, and obviously very nervous, we entered with virtually no resistance. As soon as we entered, we turned right and went up some stairs that led us to what I thought was a lobby, and continued up some more luxurious stairs to where I photographed this room and this hall, where I think the PND offices were (someone correct me if I’m wrong, please). What an adrenaline rush! After taking 10 pictures in several areas of that floor we went down to leave by another part of the complex and continue taking pictures on the way.

I left there feeling proud to have photographed such an important symbolic testament to the revolution and fall of Egypt’s three-decade dictatorial regime. A historical document that probably won’t stand for much longer. Countless important documents were lost during the fires that ravaged the building, making the NDP corruption trial more difficult.

The photograph was taken with a Classic 501 CM Body, Carl Zeiss 4/40 lenses and adapted Digital Back CFV, all from Hasselblad and a 400 ASA, Shutter 30 and 4 F stop. The image has been processed from a RAW file with Hasselblad’s Flexcolor application and minimally optimized into a digital jpg file.

South African Elections: May 8, 2019

Mandela and Soccer: “Being happy with what one is and what one is doing is well being between mind and body.” was found on the cover of a notebook from a visit to South Africa in 2009. The smell of the ocean’s spray blowing in the wind and even the sound of the crashing waves must have been the sensations of hope to him then.

When a human life has been brought down to confinement the longing for freedom is definitely intensified. A strange feeling came over me that day that in order to make a difference in the world something drastic sometimes has to happen. Is risking freedom the sacrifice needed to achieve equality? The writing on my notebook must have been about Mandela’s happiness in his pursuit that kept him in well-being. 10 years ago I visited South Africa, this seems like a long time ago but it has been 25 years since the African National Congress has been in power which is even longer. It was a few months before the 2010 world cup of soccer, that coincidentally Spain won and the first time the world cup was held in an African country. I took a personal interest in visiting South Africa photographing subjects that were of interest.

Of course I had to visit Robben island just off the coast of Cape Town, the prison where Nelson Mandela served for 27 years. On May 7, South Africa voted in their 6th democratic elections since apartheid. It seems as though once again the African National Congress has won. A few hours after a clear win Nelson Mandela’s official twitter account @nelsonmandela was quoted in saying “We need to know with a fresh conviction that we all share a common humanity and that our diversity in the world is the strength for our future together.” Out of the fortress of white power in South Africa in the early 1900’s grew African nationalism and this bred politicians constructing racial rule which turned into segregation hence “apartheid”.

A young law student by the name of Nelson Mandela became so horrified about what was happening that his ambition became to fight for what he thought was right and how he wanted to fix the world. He joined the ANC and quickly became an underground leader, it wasn’t long until warrants for his arrest began to fly. He became quite famous for his disguises and successful for dodging the police. Eventually when he was on trial for conspiring to overthrow the government from a mass non-cooperation national strike, he read a 5 hour statement, his final words then reciting from memory while facing the judge were: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African People.

I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persona live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” Eventually, Mandela was freed from prison.

In 1994 he became President of South Africa and his awards are many. Being described as the Father of the Nation his party has long lived his legacy. I agree we must not forget him in moments like these, but more importantly not forget what he fought for. Many changes have swept through the party and through South Africa in recent times. Just to name a few, the angry cries of economic failure, corruption, poor education, unemployment rates, the need for land reform, etc.

If we share a common humanity then why do we try to have more than others, and if diversity is the strength of our future then why do we create gaps between have and haves nots. If we talk about politics shouldn’t we concentrate on checks and balances? As Spike Lee says “Do The Right Thing”. No more said.

Summer of Textures.

The Mood: Project 072019 mostly mauve, hint of mint icy grey and sandy light yellow.

These are images inspired by the new nomadic royals and I take this personal. I have fallen in love with rocks.

“My Family Book Fairy Tale” without the portraits only the landscapes. They are real found moments.

The island of Sifnos and Poliegos have been a mecca for artists, explorers and travelers for thousand of years and I am sure there is a reason why. A magnet of great power sits at its core casting its net only capturing the ones that fit into its peculiar draw. My words are not of telling a story but merely describing the thoughts that come to mind from my last visit. Sometimes it matters.

Violent Waves during a summer time experience translate into a melancholic memory inspiring enough to sit down and let the hours pass by remembering the ironic joy. Nature’s varied textures can be felt at the surfaces of crevices and holes filled half full of water. Vulnerability is beauty. Speechless makes a much bigger noise. She reminds us that we are fragile but strong.

An oval rock holds up the girl who is saving her father from the water’s reflection hypnotized by it’s translation.

I was taken to a place of no return. Energy stood still. The taste of gold with a haze of purple dust cover the pines that shadow a boat filled with people. Jealous of solitude wanting more time to think, there comes a time when one has had enough of the outer world and doesn’t crave too much more.

Slowing down rotating finding order.

Invisible feathers fall from a clear blue sky. Behind the wall is another wall that leads to four other walls. I know they are there because I have been here before. The rain will come again and wash away the shells, laying down a new beginning without the same crooked line.

They never called home

In every corner of the world there are people who are faced with having to define their identity in order to fit in or adapt to a certain environment (whether social, economic, cultural or political). This is a concept that determines our position or situation within society. While some have the natural gift of inventing themselves, most struggle to find the identity traits that best define them.

Born in South Carolina (United States) to a Spanish mother and an American father, I have always been attracted to the subject of identity, and this is probably why I chose to become a photographer. My profession forces me to question whether the very nature of photographic work modifies our perception of reality. When we capture an image or transmit a story, is it not a reflection of our own cultural perspective?

On another level, some cities debate similarly about their own cultural identity, sometimes to the extent of inventing it. Qatar is a good example. It’s a country I visited recently and it made me wonder whether the spirit of a place can be built from an initial vision. Can you really define a city’s identity from a state of mind?

Communication and image agencies look for this kind of emotional connection as a starting point. They build corporate identities through the use of images, colours and styles seeking to convey the value of a company, what it believes in and why it exists. Finally, it is this emotional connection that creates a brand, an identity.

Based on this reasoning, I was delighted to accept Skyscanner’s invitation through Blueroom (which now represents VisitLondon) to visit London, a city with a strong identity that these companies help to forge.

When we visualize the city of London, most of us feel something very precise, an emotion based on our personal experiences and on the photos or films we have seen. Despite the fact that more than 100 languages are spoken in this capital city and an infinite number of religions, rules and ideologies coexist, London, in its unusual essence, is still definitely London.

During the journey, I felt the urge to explore this identity in unexpected things. Would I be able to capture the London spirit through the typically unusual? Determined to find out, I decided to enjoy a sunny weekend in October by touring two neighbourhoods not found on typical tourist maps: Bethnal Green and Stratford. These images reflect some of the situations that caught my attention and were a gift to my eyes.

Coautor: Carlota Nelson

There are two things that have always caught my attention. One is the mandatory nature of military service. I remember the first time I heard about women being forced into the military. An Israeli colleague told us about it when she was studying Fine Arts and Photography, and showed us the photos she had taken when it was her turn to do the service. I know that there are other countries that do this too, so I’m not giving Israel a callout. It’s just that my first notion of women’s military is related to this country, where I happened to take this photograph recently on a trip to Jerusalem.

The other thing that strikes me is the ease and attitude of some people when they hold a gun. I know people, and in fact I have friends who carry guns, and it is something that makes me very uncomfortable.

For me it’s very simple: guns kill. I don’t want to kill anything or anyone, and I don’t want them to kill me or anyone I love (or anyone, for that matter).

As I was walking through the commercial area in the center of Jerusalem I saw a group of kids with machine guns. They were chatting and laughing with their guns hanging on their backs. I started talking to one of the girls, the one in the photograph, and she explained that they were all military. I was shocked by the image and asked her, as a joke, if I could shoot a picture. The girl posed politely for the portrait with a big smile as she held her machine gun tightly and proudly. Personally I find the result interesting, especially the contrast between a beautiful blonde girl and the huge gun.

I invite you to share your opinion about guns and the laws that regulate them. It is a very important issue that we have to discuss and deal with in a serious way.

And please, if you are inspired, share your opinion about the power of photography as well.

una rubia armada