…trouble with Spain

From the day we’re born, our families, friends, and society form expectations about our future and the way we should lead our lives.

As social animals, it’s in our nature to look for acceptance. Many of us go with the flow – crafting reputations that hide our true selves. While others swim against this tide, express their individuality, and question whether the mainstream narrative is in their best interests.

Each generation is presented with the same challenge. Which traditions and societal norms to uphold, and which to cast aside in favour of “progress”?

Inspired by the poem ‘trouble with Spain’ by Charles Bukowski. This series of layered images uses Madrid’s historic businesses as a metaphor; contrasting the authenticity required to start a business with the conformity needed to maintain its position in the marketplace.

Visual interpretations of poetry are subjective and inclined to be incomplete. The artist photographer focuses on themes that resonate with them. The resulting images may not even be based on words from the poem. Rather a feeling that the poem invokes.

This poem describes a party and our need for belonging. At this party, inclusion is only obtained if adequate admiration for a handsome cartoonist called Spain is expressed, whether it is genuinely felt or not. Maintaining your authenticity will leave you ostracised.

The opening and closing stanzas illustrate the dilemma. Chase social acceptance and forfeit your integrity, or be yourself and sacrifice public approval. You get burnt either way.


Photo taken between February and March 2020. The project was created while attending a Documentary Photography & Reportage course at IED Master, Madrid.