It is 1:30am on Good Friday morning and the square in front of San Miguel church in Jerez is packed and noisy, awaiting one of the major religious processions to start its five hour passage through the city centre and back. Suddenly there is a deep hush – all lights go out and the first of the penitents emerge into the moonlight lit only by candles and shrouded in black capes and hoods. Then follows the two floats (Los Pasos): each is halted whilst a plaintive saeta, sung by a single deep-throated and passionate voice of devotion and passion, rings above the silent throng. I’m there with my trusty Leica doing my best at ISO 3200 and 50mm lens wide open at f1.4 to capture the moment as best I could:
Penitents lead the procession …
…. all dressed in black.
The first float (el paso).
The second of the Virgin Mary.
With numerous smartphones being used as cameras, the darkness is punctuated by bright flashes of blue light.
Onlookers glued to their iPhones before the start.
I had wanted to do this trip for some years, ever since reading James Michener’s book “Iberia” many years ago. Last year I met Christopher Pollard who lives in Spain – we were unaware we were at the same college in Durham as students until both memories were severely jogged! He put together a programme for around ten of us who are members of the Royal Photographic Society Travel group.
The Parroquia de San Miguel procession was for us the climax after spending three days previously following various processions formed from the 40 plus brotherhoods of Jerez. Here is a selection of some of my favourite images: for many of these I used a Fuji X-Pro1 with a fixed 35mm f1.4 prime lens.
Convento Santissima Trinidad.
Dawn breaks over the brotherhood from the Capilla de la Yedra, a procession started earlier at 2:00am.
The eyes say it all…
… and again.
For some, a rest was called for.
And some just need refreshment to keep going.
The floats weigh several hundred pounds and are inched along by teams of strong men who have practiced for months.
The physical agony of the burden…
All have some sort of shoulder and neck rest for lifting the floats onto their shoulders.
Most processions are accompanied by drums and bands.
Drummers also take a break every few yards.
This in my view is street photography at its most difficult: getting a clean composition, good framing and coping with extremes of light and shade are major challenges. One positive, however, is the willingness of everyone to be photographed, although many of course cannot be recognised in their pointed hoods and capes. It was a constant puzzle to me as to how friends and relatives recognised their family and acquaintances, many walking alongside or greeting them at corners or along the way.
These images and more will appear on my website shortly (http://www.colinhoward.co.uk). We also ventured to Cadiz and visited the “White Villages” of Andalusia.
As stated above, the trip was organised under the auspices of the Travel Group of the Royal Photographic Society and led by Christopher Pollard, a long term resident in Spain and who organises specialised small group tours to Iberia and elsewhere in Europe and Morocco.