INTERVIEW - VIVIENNE WHIFFEN
Q: How would you characterise your work?
VW: A tutor once told me that practically all my photographs have a feeling of isolation. I do have a few photographs that include people but probably more of desolated, quiet, empty landscapes.
A photograph that perhaps best captures this feeling of isolation is this desolate landscape of the Alentejo. My 2005 journal describes my perfect subject: “To Almodovar. Barren hillsides dotted with occasional trees, abandoned farmhouses in ruins. As I climbed the hill, scratchy with dry grass, to explore, a rabbit scuttled across my path. Desolation. The white scattered bones and the skull of a sheep among the fallen stones of the farmhouse walls. John saw bee-eaters, I saw a bunny".
Q: Many of your pictures capture or document daily life in Andalucía. What do you look for when you photograph Gaucin and other Spanish villages?
VW: I don't think I look for anything in particular, although silent empty streets at siesta time where one gets the feeling of extreme heat are very appealing. Village faces, too. Anything traditional, on its way to being lost. The texture of buildings layered in cal. Shadows.
Another example of an empty street. During Semana Santa in Sevilla I came across this shop window. The sombre, shuffling processions had just passed leaving only some litter, an echo, a slight melancholy. The perky little First Communion frocks seemed to be waiting their turn. I think they have a poignant presence.
The Easter Sunday bull run is one of the highlights of the year for the people of Gaucin. I myself feel slightly ambivalent about it and although I don’t like what happens to the bulls, I find the sounds spine-chillingly thrilling: the early morning brass band, the buzz of excitement and anticipation throughout the village before the fiesta starts, the roar of the crowds as the bull suddenly changes direction or charges off down a side street, the bugles which have such a primitive, primeval, plaintive sound. My photographs were taken in the late eighties on film.