Photographer at Large
“A city like no other”
Paris, Rome, Barcelona…the mere mention of these cities and people will immediately respond. Our reaction to a city is intensely personal. Maybe it is the history, the food or the people, but cities possess a magnetic force that we cannot resist. By definition, cities are a mess of buildings, traffic jams, and human congestion built up over centuries of turmoil. But there is something about the way a city makes us feel that allows us to forget all of the hassles. From our favorite cafes, to the evening light, to the secret spots where you feel the excitement of discovery, cities are the eternal playground for photographers. They fuel our drive to dig deeper into a culture and explore the ever changing landscape.
Our next Photographer at Large, Marc Derydt, starting working with me two years ago. His goals were to improve his portraiture and connect his love of architecture with his love of travel. A native of Belgium now living in Slovakia, Marc set his eyes on Barcelona, Spain.
Barcelona: A City Like No Other
BY MARC DERYDT
I fell in love with Barcelona in November 2013 and have been going back regularly, trying to slowly build a portfolio of pictures showing the atmosphere of this unique city. Adam has helped me along the way and was kind enough to give me the opportunity of showing my work so far. I do not think that I have the portfolio I want yet, which will force me to go back a few more times. This goes to show that there is always a good side to a bad situation…
The goal with this short article is to tempt you to visit Barcelona and, assuming you will go, give you some practical advice for when you get there. As we are all passionate about photography, I will also say a little about my experience taking pictures.
Let’s perhaps start with that…
I have been in Barcelona with different types of gear, some of it very heavy. However, the best experience I have had so far was, without any doubt, with a Leica M and one lens (50mm). Each of us will have his or her opinion as to how much this would be attributable to the rangefinder system, but there is certainly something liberating about not having to choose among a bag full of cameras and lenses. I believe that we need to slow down to be able to catch those special moments, those that will make an impression on other people, and a “light” approach to equipment helps with this.
Using a film camera also helps one slow down and concentrate on the task at hand. It is a bit of a cumbersome process, but if only as an exercise, I’d say that it makes sense to buy a second-hand film camera and shoot a few rolls. This is the objective for the next trip.
I also found out that photography is not a team sport. Even with a very patient and understanding spouse, there is a real advantage in walking around alone. Probably because this helps us be more in the moment. Some good places for wandering around and taking pictures of people are the Cathedral (in and around), Plaza Real on a Sunday morning or Plaça de Catalunya.
There is a good photo store some 150 meters from Plaça de Catalunya, Casanova Foto, at 35 Ronda de la Universitat.
As to Barcelona, there is something special about the atmosphere there. Not sure whether it is about the people, the weather, the architecture or the diversity. It just needs to be experienced. Renting an apartment in the center is a good tip: one immediately feels more “local” than in a hotel.
Travel & Shooting Recommendations
Once there, I would recommend the following:
- TOP 10. You cannot go too wrong by looking at the top ten from Lonely Planet or some similar website. It is the top ten for a reason.
- OLDEST CHURCH. In addition to that list, I’d suggest seeing Sant Pau del Camp, in the Raval district, the oldest church in Spain and a place of magical tranquility.
- BOOK IN ADVANCE, ARRIVE EARLY. For the big attractions, buy your entries online and, at least for the Sagrada Familia, make sure to book the earliest entry in the morning. Getting in there first is a real treat.
- TAPAS. For tapas, try Orio on Carrer de Ferran or Ciutat Comtal on the Rambla de Catalunya. In the latter one, expect to have to wait. They do not take reservations and there usually is a waiting list. Well worth it though.
- BUY FIRST, SHOOT SECOND. There are obviously a lot of tourists and nobody seems to have issues with pictures being taken. One exception is the Mercado de la Boqueria, where it is better to buy something (some fruits for instance) before starting to shoot.
- ROOF. Entry to the Cathedral is free at some times during the day. You only get access to the cloister and garden though. Better to pay the five or six euros and see the Cathedral itself. Getting up to the roof is also worth it.
- BEACH. Barcelona is a city with a sea front and walking down the Rambla, you get to the Rambla de Mar, which is a nice place for taking pictures of the sea or of the city in the evening.
See more of Marc’s work here: