Time / Date:
13:16 / June 5, 2011
Camera Body: Canon 5D
Lens: Canon 24–70mm f/2.8L
Shutter Speed: 1/400
Focal Length: 30mm
I went to Pantelleria for the first time a few years ago; I had a friend from my LA days who lived there with her islander husband and their tiny daughter, and a Spanish magazine that I don’t think exists anymore gave me an assignment to shoot rural landscapes and architectural details. Pantelleria’s location just off the coast of North Africa — you can see Tunisia on a clear day — and six hours by sea from Sicily mean that throughout its history the island has changed hands several times, and several different cultures have left their mark on the local culture. The style of agriculture, building and even language on Pantelleria have all been influenced by Arab, African, Roman and Sicilian culture, so today it’s an interesting place to shoot.
My assignment had such a broad brief that I was able to give my local friend, Tasha, free rein to show me all her island’s best bits. This was actually the first spot we visited, Gadir — it’s a series of geothermally heated pools right next to the Mediterranean. The warm sea washes in to cool the hotter water a little, but some of the pools closer to the foot of the cliff were still too hot for me to spend more than a few minutes in.
I took my 5D (it was the best I had at the time) and a bunch of lenses on the trip, but mostly just used the 24–70 for flexibility; I’m a bit rubbish when it’s hot out, and it’s so much easier to just stick with the one lens most of the time, especially when there’s lots of walking involved. I had a little old Digital Rebel XT with a 50mm on it, too, which came in handy because it was light enough for my friend’s little daughter to shoot with… it was the summer holidays, so I had her as my mini assistant for the whole time.
Making the Shot:
It was quite quiet when we first arrived, when I took this shot; more people arrived later and there were kids dashing about all over the place, and everything got a bit frenetic. I like that everyone in this shot was alone, silently enjoying the sun and the water. I didn’t shoot very much; I just grabbed a few frames — I’d just arrived and it was so glorious that I decided to be a bit lazy, so I didn’t try different angles until later in the day; nothing I took later pleased me as much as this early shot.
Editing & Processing:
This was in my bizarre pre-Lightroom days when I did everything in Photoshop and all my processing was horribly unwieldy. I have a bit of an involuntary shudder whenever I think of that — my workflow was so slow back in that era (even though I was doing tons of music photography and usually needed to file my shots each night before I could get any sleep) and I resisted switching to LR for so long! I have no idea why; eventually a friend made me see sense, thank God. Anyway, with this one I didn’t do much processing, so it probably wasn’t too wretchedly slow. I’d just moved back to London from Los Angeles so I went gallivanting around Spain and Italy for a while to take advantage of being back in Europe; by the time I got back to London I had so many thousands of shots to process I had to keep everything as simple as possible. I probably just upped the contrast a bit.
I learnt a million years ago that if I start thinking of all the things I don’t like about my pictures I’ll get discouraged and start to hate shooting, so with old shots like this it’s easiest if I just tell myself that I’ll go back to Gadir one day and see how differently I’d shoot it now! There are plenty of things I do like about it, like the tattoo of the sunbathing man and the greyness of the sky and the fact that my friend’s little white hat is in the corner. My favourite thing is the composition of the people, too, for which I of course can’t take any credit — they just arranged themselves in a pleasing arrangement without meaning to. The people are the main thing I dislike, though, too — I wish I’d moved or waited so that the arm and shoulder of the person almost hidden in the mid-right would’ve been gone.
This is the most obvious thing you could ever tell a photographer, really, but I wish I’d told myself it more when I was younger and I could probably do with telling myself it more nowadays, too: I should go more places and shoot more things. I’ve seen so many things that I haven’t photographed (either because I didn’t have my camera, or because I was too slow, or because I knew I needed to walk up a hill and my feet were sore) and I regret it.
About the Photographer
Rachel Juarez-Carr was born in England in the ’80s, studied journalism in London, used to live in Los Angeles and shoots everywhere.
RECENTLY PUBLISHED: A documentary and music photography book called Seven Years of Ordinary Life in L.A.
ONGOING PROJECTS: Portraits of London girls and a book on Pantelleria.
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