Perfect Day is the fifth photo-book from Spanish photographer Txema Salvans, here capturing holiday-making Spaniards at leisure in unexpected corners of their coastal landscape.
Despite the fact that this book is centred on the country’s sea-side resorts Salvans positions himself between the water and his subjects – the sea here is a silent witness. Reversing their gaze we effectively see what those travellers have turned their back upon. Salvans states “In photography, that which is not shown determines the final sense as much as that which is shown.”
What we see is not pretty. This is not the quirky mix of personalities, colours and textures that for example Martin Parr extracts from British coastal resorts, or the distanced abstraction of Massimo Vitali and his overcrowded beaches.
Salvans’ images are altogether darker and take a wry look at post industrial desolation although not without a hint of optimism. They step back from individuals and expressions to take a viewpoint distanced enough to prioritise the scene and its surrounding environment.
“We are heirs to the violence of those who came before us, and the Mediterranean has been deeply wronged,” says Txema. “And yet we’ve adapted. We’re bordering on dystopia.”
In one image sunbathers luxuriate on concrete benches oblivious to adjacent waste bins or dead palms.
In another a tourist has carefully parked his fold-up chair between crumbling walls, watched over by a concrete flyover and an industrial complex, soaking in the ambience.
Two children roller-blade beside a waste bin, desolate concrete car parks and bleak industrial warehouses, whilst in a similar car park, a tourist sits beside his car seemingly seemingly oblivious to the industrial banality of the surroundings.
In other images swimming pools are nestled between encroaching buildings, leisure activities take place before industrial plants whilst cranes, and cooling towers loom over beaches.
In these surreal, banal and humorous scenes, Salvans reveals how this pursuit of leisure persists in spite of the ominous pressures of the built environment. They express a deeply human determination to adapt, and find repose, against the odds.
Beneath the surface of these scrupulously composed tableaux are potent questions about class, national identity, and the politics of space: a depiction of simple pleasures advocating our rights to them.
Txema’s images have something of the Greek tragedy to them, the characters at the mercy of wider forces that they’re powerless to resist.
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