Alejandro Gutiérrez is an emerging photographer based out of Valencia Spain. In his series Fallas, he documents the yearly ritual that takes place in his seaside city. Participants prepare all year round, raising funds and throwing parties while artists, sculptors, and architects construct the huge monuments that will be judged during the festival of Saint Joseph. The fallas can be as large as buildings, towering over onlookers as the monuments are paraded down the city streets. The artists who create the massive structures are not only skilled, but they also have a sense of humor, building fallas that often depict controversial current events, celebrities, and politicians in a satirical manner. La cremà takes place on the final night of the festival, when the fallas are burned in front of thousands of celebrants.
Alejandro Gutiérrez considers himself to be self-taught and inspired by everything around him, even the normal happenings in the city of Valencia such as children playing in the street, and grandfathers smoking and talking with friends. He admires many photographers, learning something from each one and then adding his personal touch to his work.
“The history of photography fascinates me, and now I am starting to discover, learning more and more, that this never finishes and you never know more than anyone else because it always changes. Photography shows everything your eyes see that with time your memory forgets.”
For the most part he documents images ‘of the moment’ that tell a story of the people and setting he captures. The Fallas series juxtaposes the creation of these massive structures with their destruction and ultimate burning to ash, the finality of a year’s hard work and dedication.
When visitors come to Valencia they are no doubt impressed by the monuments of the Fallas, but even more impressive is the fact that the monuments that took a year to create will all be burned. Locals respond the same way to visitor questions, “the Fallas are meant for this purpose” but the visitors continue without fully understanding. The Fallas started a long time ago as a ceremony to celebrate the beginning of spring. People would throw their old junk, things they no longer used, into the flames. With time the junk turned into dolls dressed in cloth or old clothes stuffed with straw planted in the middle of the street. Eventually the dolls and old clothes turned into art, no longer piles of broken chairs or other useless items, but rather towering monuments. Today there are more than 300 monuments and every March 19th they transform into flames, surrounded by fireworks, another characteristic of these days when Valencia smells like smoke.
Photo © Alejandro Gutiérrez