First of all I’d like to wish everyone reading this a Happy 2021. I work as a teacher so I actually believe the New Year begins in September but regardless of my personal beliefs, I hope that this Gregorian calendar year ahead is good to us all. We start from where 2020 left us which, in objective, global terms isn’t that a great place but the first signs of light at the end of the tunnel are starting to appear. Hopefully this year sees us move steadily towards that lighter place.
(EDIT: This introduction was written before a violent mob attempted a coup on the world’s most heavily armed nation. The USA with another of its famous “Hold my beer” moments.)
While 2020 was objectively awful on a world scale, I’m one of the very lucky ones who didn’t have all that bad a year on a personal level. I’m very lucky in that I have my health and so do (occasional hospital scares aside) all of those close to me. I’m also lucky to have stayed in work throughout an international crisis. Not everyone has been so lucky, of course, but I do think it’s important to remember that even if global events are unceasingly awful, our personal lives don’t need to reflect that. Hopefully most people already remember that without me pointing it out, but just in case. Still, the events of this year have helped me with my sense of perspective, and with my capacity to appreciate where I am now and the good things arround me. That’s something I don’t want to leave in 2020 but carry forward into the future.
On a related note, and before I go off on too many tangents, comes the subject of this particular post. One of the project pages on my website features photographs of the old town of Segorbe, photographs made over the course of several months wandering the often empty streets in its historic Jewish and Moorish quarters. The overall picture isn’t a positive one. The houses, while beautiful and picturesque, are increasingly empty, many abandoned, and some in more advanced states of decay. This is, sadly, a reality in Segorbe and many, many other historic towns and villages. The photographs go some way to showing part of that reality, although, like any photograph they only show part of the story. The photographs I’ll share below tell a slightly different one.
A few weeks ago we were in Segorbe of a weekend, and making the most of the last of Saturday opening hours to do a bit of Christmas shopping. In one shop on the edge of the old town we got into conversation with the proprietor, with the conversation perhaps inevitably leading to how things were in the old town itself, and he informed us that this year was the first year that the old town would have Christmas lights. The residents’ association had successfully petitioned for lights to be placed along its narrow streets, and over the festive period individual residents were also doing a little extra with their own decorations to show the area at its best. As night fell, and it fell early as we were approaching the winter solstice at this point, we wandered up through the narrow streets which definitely felt more alive than in other winters. The sensation of emptiness compared to the city, where there are always people doing things or moving from one place to another, is always heightened during the cold, dark winter nights when the people who do live in these houses, quite understandably prefer to stay snug inside near the log fire rather than venture out. These festive lights reminded us that there were people inside, behind closed doors, and helped some of that life spill out into the streets.
I wanted to photograph the lights there and then but had only Black and White film in my camera, and no tripod as I’ve become very unaccustomed to taking one with me. I spent most of the Christmas holidays thinking about going back, properly equipped, and eventually returned the other day to photograph this slightly different vision of the streets of old town Segorbe. I tried to conserve a similar photographic style to my other photographs of these same streets, although the aesthetic obviously changes somewhat from day to night. It was important to me to photograph these streets at their festive best, and the idea that there is still some life left in them. It was important to me that when a positive story came along, that I also told that story, that I shared the light.