Txema Salvans spent eight years photographing the prostitution rampant along Spain’s mediterranean coastal roads. His goal was not to tell these women’s personal stories but to illuminate a large-scale phenomenon. Salvans wishes to highlight an unspoken political problem, which, through the silence surrounding it, renders these women an invisible part of the landscape.
Txema Salvans’ landscape photographs are misleading. At first they appear beautiful and pastoral, even poetic. To the untrained eye they seem like innocent tourist pictures or a quiet rural moment. But there is something disturbing about them. What are these girls doing on the highway? The answer is obvious to every local. Decriminalized in 1995, roadside prostitution has become rampant throughout Spain. While procurement and brothels remain illegal, prostitution itself is not regulated.
The series The Waiting Game I began as a journalistic assignment but turned into an eight year-long project. Salvans, a Catalan photographer working along the country’s Mediterranean coastline, was asked to provide two photographs for a local article about prostitution. His first choice was to keep his distance so subjects could not be recognized – for their privacy and future, as well as their safety and his own. He sought to photograph them as women, not as prostitutes. Another choice was to photograph them in lighting that would offer no mystery or eroticism. The harsh daylight emphasizes the area’s desolation and the subjects’ fragility, and indicates this phenomenon takes place at all times. His third choice was to focus on the moment of waiting.
These choices result in a body of work that is unique to the photography of the marginalized. These are not candid immediate portraits, nor do they show an absence indicating what was and will be, and what remains invisible. Instead of the urban landscape normally associated with depictions of prostitutes, Salvan offers wide landscape photographs. He wishes to illuminate this large-scale phenomenon and highlight its context and the place where it occurs, rather than focus on the personal story of a specific woman. He seeks to raise awareness of an unspoken political problem. Through photography, he tears away the silence which renders these women an invisible part of the landscape.
In collaboration with the Embassy of Spain
Ya'ara Raz Haklai