Yucca City - Documentary photography project in Almeria [update]


(defocus) #1

Hi folks!

I’ve posted a bit here and there on the forum, but read a lot more silently on the background. I am a documentary photographer that will reside in the Almeria area until early december, pursuing a project there.

The locations are all in the jurisdictional zone of Almeria (with the possible exception of the very nearby Gaudix locations), focussing soley on the movies of Sergio Leone. Later on this year I will go back to visit the other sites in Spain.

The final project will be published in the form of an art-book, and obviously exhibitioned throughout europe over time. In my startup period I have had some great help from Scherpschutter and Phil to find important resources in the world of the Spaghetti western - one I was quite unaware of only a few months ago. I dont need to elaborate any further on the addictiveness of SW’s and Sergio’s movies in particular - I’m spending every available hour of the day reading, watching, biking, walking or driving with only the films in my mind.

In contrast to many photos posted here of locations I am not looking for a ‘copy’ of a scene, but I am re-interpreting scenes. After some consideration of a place I re-evaluate it’s characteristics and properties and chose the proper lighting, composition/framing and such. Since I am a documentary-art photographer you will find that I am often trying to mix the present and historical into a single image.
Also in the near future I will start making portraits of extra’s that once played a role in the SL’ movies, and am contemplating to use extra’s of my own to create a almost mythical place that crosses time and space, fiction and fact, real and constructed - in a manner that does justice to the conceptual greatness of Leone’s masterpieces.

Right, enough talk. I will post some photos - only a few of which start to get to a level I am looking for. The others are mostly ‘scouting’ photos of places I will re-visit several times at least. And please realise this is a look in ‘work in progress’, where I hope to contribute to the forum as well as receive feedback from you guys. I take the SW fans as serious as the art/photography audience!

With a bit of fantasy most people here will be able to make out the places, especially since these mostly deal with the better known scenes and/or sites :wink: Right now I have to leave - both internet and Almeria city, and will be returning to Tabernas.

Hope you enjoy, stay tuned for updates!


(Phil H) #2

Thanks for posting defocus. I see you’ve already spent at least a little time in Los Albaricoques. :slight_smile:

I look forward to seeing more of your shots as the project unfolds. To be honest, your timing is impecable. Recording some of what is left of the structures in this area is a job which needs doing before it all disappears in a cloud of decay and neglect.

Good luck with the work.


(defocus) #3

Thanks Phil.

Indeed it has become painfully clear that the unique landscape and cutural heritage is changing at lightning speed, with the growth of Spain as an economic powerhouse in Europe. People are in the phase that we had in the 80’s - a lot of money to spend on refurbishing the house and garden, or worse, tearing it down and building a new one all together.

Unfortunately it seems the Spanish have a cultural and historical awareness that is completely restricted to things of touristic interest. Everything is maintained as much as it is exploited, and when the flow of tourists stop the interest in objects or places diminishes as fast as water vaporizes here.

There are a few spots of hope however, such as Manuel from hostel Alba. He is more or less the guardian angel of Los Albaricoques and tries single-handedly to increase awareness and respect for cinmatic and historic sites. On a positive note - and all his to credit - the electricity poles you see in the first two pictures are scheduled to be removed. He managed to convince the Junta (local politics) to dig trenches and tear down the ugly masts. Unfortunately it is planned around the time I am leaving, so I’m not sure if I will manage to get the new view in my photos.

Other examples of Manuel’s effort are the round arena in Albaricoques. He tried (unfortunately without too much succes) to talk the owner of that stretch of land out of repairing it the way he did. Currently its a very neatly cemented wall. Completely the wrong color and style, however. Manuel opted for a more historic reconstruction (the wall was all but in ruins at one point). His efforts might not have succeeded this time but it gave me goosebumps to see how passionatly he is trying to keep everything as authentic as possible. Obviously he gains somewhat with his hostal/restaurant, but it seems to be all heart-warming passion to me.

More updates follow, found a little spot with internet in Tabernas now…sitting on some stairs of a little appartment complex :wink:


(Reverend Danite) #4

[quote=“defocus, post:1, topic:1994”]Hi folks!

Also in the near future I will start making portraits of extra’s that once played a role in the SL’ movies, and am contemplating to use extra’s of my own to create a almost mythical place that crosses time and space, fiction and fact, real and constructed - in a manner that does justice to the conceptual greatness of Leone’s masterpieces.

Hope you enjoy, stay tuned for updates![/quote]

I like this project and your vision very much, and I’m looking forward to updates and the book. Obviously, having been out there with the chaps and seeing what’s happening (and not happening), and having met Manuel, I feel some tangible affinity with the landscape. Top work defocus fellah!
Is that bar from FAFDM still standing?


(Phil H) #5

[quote=“defocus, post:3, topic:1994”]There are a few spots of hope however, such as Manuel from hostel Alba. He is more or less the guardian angel of Los Albaricoques and tries single-handedly to increase awareness and respect for cinmatic and historic sites. On a positive note - and all his to credit - the electricity poles you see in the first two pictures are scheduled to be removed. He managed to convince the Junta (local politics) to dig trenches and tear down the ugly masts. Unfortunately it is planned around the time I am leaving, so I’m not sure if I will manage to get the new view in my photos.

Other examples of Manuel’s effort are the round arena in Albaricoques. He tried (unfortunately without too much succes) to talk the owner of that stretch of land out of repairing it the way he did. Currently its a very neatly cemented wall. Completely the wrong color and style, however. Manuel opted for a more historic reconstruction (the wall was all but in ruins at one point). His efforts might not have succeeded this time but it gave me goosebumps to see how passionatly he is trying to keep everything as authentic as possible. Obviously he gains somewhat with his hostal/restaurant, but it seems to be all heart-warming passion to me.[/quote]

Manuel is indeed a top lad.
I liked him so much I couldn’t help but give him a little cuddle.

Not sure how comfortable he was with it :smiley:


(defocus) #6

Danite : I´m not sure I´ve seen the bar you refer to. Actually, i´m sure that I haven’t. Can you elaborate a bit ?

Phil : Ah…he has not changed a bit. Same clothes, same hair. Judging by the lack of the continuous grin on his face, he might have had his masculin doubts about the hug and/or the photo ;D

A general question for the folks here ; I am feeling more and more resistance to the inclusion of the so called Poblados in my project. Most notably the Western-Leone rancho, Fort Bravo and Mini Hollywood.

I have kept finding excuses not to visit these sites up to now, feeling only a low level of attraction on the base of what I have seen of and read about them. For me there are up to now several factors that make me doubt their importance in the Yucca city project :

1) The poblados are much geared towards making money, not sharing and maintaining cultural heritage. This is reflected in the current state of the towns , often completely stripped of the things that did not fit in the view of the owner®. This leaves quite empty streets, clinical almost. In a way they are already too modified.

2) With the growing realisation that many sites (both landscapes/views and buildings) are deteriorating I feel that my task is to document the lesser known and harder to reach areas. The poblados are either beyond rescue (for example Mcbain house surroundings) or are properly maintained but not very attractive (being redecorated, re-used, painted etc).

3) The photographic public is saturated with photos from the poblados, since every tourist - SW aficionado’s or not - visits these sites and makes their cliché pictures. I hope to make a more interesting and mythical document when it is not clear what exactly the place, time and subject of the book or exhibition are.

A good example of #3 is the recently published work of Aaron Schuman http://www.aaronschuman.com/
He clearly only visited the most touristic of sites, and despite the nice imagery I feel that he missed a great opportunity to dig deeper in the phenomenon of the spaghetti western industry (and Leone´s influence) in this area. In his publication he talks about the perception of Europeans of American culture and history, and decided that it all is about the mostly clicheview. He even re-used points of view from Cox and Frayling in his texts, while in essence he does not seem to realise that Leone is always referring to cliches of the western movie genre, not the western time and place itself. The level of realism in his movies is actually very high, compared to most.

Also I feel that it is rather shameless to use a title with such depth and significance (Once upon a time in the west), especially if you do not reach the level of the original artwork.

end of rant. 8)

Curious of the forum opinions on this one (if you actually managed to skim through all the text :).


(Reverend Danite) #7

It’s the bar where LVC shoots Kinski. I think it was on the main road going down the hill towards Minihollywood (or Oyases, or whatever they call it?). If I remember right (which could be doubtful) - it’s very close to the themepark, and even closer to the road - in fact practically on it - on the right hand side, heading down.
Phil might remember better, and Richard and Veronica (from Tuco Tours) showed it to us … you could always pm Richard (El Indalo) - I would imagine he’d tell you exactly where it is.
It looked like it was about to have the front fall off - it’s very dillapidated and there’s a big crack in it (no jokes about the T-shirt please :P).

Anyway here’s the screenshot and a photo Phil took of it…


Therealvancleef

Counterfeitvancleef


(Phil H) #8

This is the place the Rev is refering to on Tuco Tours’ website.

http://www.tucotours.co.uk/fdmlocations6.htm

It was on the verge of falling down when we were there in 2008.


(defocus) #9

I actually placed that site on my maps for visiting ASAP, since it is rather close to here. Bikeable, even (I like doing stuff by bike as much as possible). I cant even recollect a house there, but vaguely remember some ruins. Will update you guys on the state soon, a photo included…!


(Phil H) #10

[quote=“defocus, post:6, topic:1994”]A general question for the folks here ; I am feeling more and more resistance to the inclusion of the so called Poblados in my project. Most notably the Western-Leone rancho, Fort Bravo and Mini Hollywood.

I have kept finding excuses not to visit these sites up to now, feeling only a low level of attraction on the base of what I have seen of and read about them. For me there are up to now several factors that make me doubt their importance in the Yucca city project :

1) The poblados are much geared towards making money, not sharing and maintaining cultural heritage. This is reflected in the current state of the towns , often completely stripped of the things that did not fit in the view of the owner®. This leaves quite empty streets, clinical almost. In a way they are already too modified.

2) With the growing realisation that many sites (both landscapes/views and buildings) are deteriorating I feel that my task is to document the lesser known and harder to reach areas. The poblados are either beyond rescue (for example Mcbain house surroundings) or are properly maintained but not very attractive (being redecorated, re-used, painted etc).

3) The photographic public is saturated with photos from the poblados, since every tourist - SW aficionado’s or not - visits these sites and makes their cliché pictures. I hope to make a more interesting and mythical document when it is not clear what exactly the place, time and subject of the book or exhibition are.

A good example of #3 is the recently published work of Aaron Schuman http://www.aaronschuman.com/
He clearly only visited the most touristic of sites, and despite the nice imagery I feel that he missed a great opportunity to dig deeper in the phenomenon of the spaghetti western industry (and Leone´s influence) in this area. In his publication he talks about the perception of Europeans of American culture and history, and decided that it all is about the mostly clicheview. He even re-used points of view from Cox and Frayling in his texts, while in essence he does not seem to realise that Leone is always referring to cliches of the western movie genre, not the western time and place itself. The level of realism in his movies is actually very high, compared to most.

Also I feel that it is rather shameless to use a title with such depth and significance (Once upon a time in the west), especially if you do not reach the level of the original artwork.

end of rant. 8)

Curious of the forum opinions on this one (if you actually managed to skim through all the text :).[/quote]

In answer to your questions re the Poblados:

  1. You are right, these places are transformed and represented for the benefit of tourists and as such lack a level of ‘authenticity’. However, if you are able to swing it (you sound like a talented guy ;)) they are truly iconic structures which would be beneficial to include in some form. Texas Hollywood (or Fort Bravo or whatever it is called these days) was not used in the Leone films I believe. (I could be wrong though) and this is a shame because, for me, its ramshackle current state makes it the most interesting of the 3 main Poblado sites.

  2. Again I agree. The original structures re used in the films are the ones under real threat and, although I don’t know exactly what your vision for the project is, I suspect will offer far richer and more atmospheric subjects photographically. The same must be said for the landscape itself which I believe most fans consider as important as any man made structures in terms of resonance and ‘feel’ in the films.

  3. As above, you know your vision better than anyone but I guess it is all in how you photograph the poblados (should you choose to do so). I suspect though that if you are aiming at something ‘mythical’ or ‘melancholic’ that the Poblados would offer the least value.


(defocus) #11

Phil, thanks for the detailed answers. I’ll visit the towns in the coming weeks - low on the list as said. I’ve driven past them many times, but the sight of tens of cars in the parkinglot and tourists with cowboyhats did not excite me hehe. Making photos never hurts however, we’ll see how they fit in the picture (:d) in the end. Like you, I am still doubting their place.

Regarding fort bravo : Afaik it was used for both the GBU and a FFOD. On the spanish website of the local ayuntamiento it states that its construction was initiated by Leone, Grimaldi and one ‘Juan García’.

On second thougt I must add though that I have not been able to find out what scenes were recorded there. Information is scarse…as always.


(defocus) #12

A long needed update in this topic - some new photos, you guys are the first to get a look in the kitchen! Hope you enjoy.


(Silence) #13

Lovely pics, thanks a lot! They almost look the same today! It feels like I’ve seen them is the films, I very well could have.


(Tom B.) #14

The site for the LVC- Kinski duel is at the bottom of the hill on the same side of the street as Mini Hollywood. One of the open walls has been filled in so it is hard to set the inside from stills of the movie. Also across the street from the entrance to Mini Hollywood is where Leone built the prison used in For a Few Dollars More. You can find bits of board and fake bricks etc. You can line up the mountain which is seen between the cell blocks. The stairs they used to go down goes down the side of a cliff. The roof was the roof of the Mission in GBU. If I were making a documentary I’d show Mini Hollywood, Fort Bravo and Western Hollywood. They are a part of cinema history but have been commercialized. Concentrate on the out of the way locations and you’ll be fine. Best of luck.


(Chris_Casey) #15

Beautiful images, defocus!
Thanks so much for sharing them!
It makes me want to go back to Almeria…ASAP!
I miss Senor Manuel, too!!!

All of the best to you on your project, amigo!


(defocus) #16

Just a small kick on the status of this project :

Starting 4 March there will be a teaser-exhibition of this project in Utrecht, The Netherlands. There will be six very large prints on the wall, and there will be a total of twelve images in a very, very high quality publication. The exhibition will run for the duration of one month. Besides my own work there can be find other documentary material from photographers, including one Magnum photographer.

If people live in the vincinity or have business in Utrecht on 3 march late in the noon, I could arrange for you to be at the opening of the exhibition. Please let me know today :wink: