Like everything we do in Spain, Semana Santa is a celebration full of folklore and passion. It seems like for us, there’s no other way to do things. Semana Santa is a Christian festivity that has been around for 15 centuries, and we celebrate it in just the same way as we did back then.
For some of us, it has nothing to do with religion, faith, or God but rather, with art, beauty, and tradition, and that is just what I wanted to freeze with my personal “moment framer” – art, beauty, and tradition, in both the images and my way of shooting. My friend for this project? A 17-year-old Canon 400D my girlfriend gifted me and two low-cost lenses. That is all you need to capture the world as you please.
This festivity does not differentiate nationalities, ages, genders, or even if you love it for the religion or for the art. Whatever the reason that impels you to attend, there’s place for you.
For me, the most beautiful aspect of Semana Santa is how it has hardly changed since its beginnings. The clothes, message, decorations, and everything that surrounds the holiday are the same as they always were. It’s just like a time machine, which is exactly what we want to do with our cameras – capture the past, freezing each moment. That is what made me want to go and see for myself the beauty and complexity of the festival.
I was fascinated by the way that you can be walking the streets of a big urban city with all the movement, artificial lights, and shops and suddenly turn a corner and become immersed in solemnity, tranquility, a piece of the past. It’s like the frame was there waiting for me to capture and share. A temporal escape from an all-time moving world, in true street photography fashion.
Another key aspect is mobility. After Martin Luther’s reform, the Catholic Church needed something to attract and amaze people. And what better way to show someone your power and beauty than by marching it across the city so everyone can see it from their house, street, balcony, or workplace? That is exactly what they did. If people didn’t want to go to Church, they took the churches to them. And they did all they could to make the tradition as artistic and symbolic as they could. It was, in essence, God’s parade.
Semana Santa is for everyone, no matter his age. People from all walks of life enjoy the event. That said, it’s a tradition that involves all of your senses. There are crowds, drums, smells. If you decide to come here and experience this for yourself, be careful who you bring with you, it may not appeal to everyone.
Now a quick note on what we photographers always want to know about: the gear. Without going into depth, I will say that complicated gear can sometimes distract you from the most important thing – photography. The real world never stops, and normally you won’t have time to think about what camera, lenses, or mode you should use. The best moment of your whole life could be unfolding in front of your eyes so you must be quick. With that in mind, this is the gear I chose for my project:
• 50mm f/1.8 A pancake lens, sneaky, small, simple, and bright, that allows me to be stealthy and fast. It has another big advantage; you can imagine exactly how the framing of an image will turn out with your naked eyes since it’s a 50mm.
• 35-80mm f/4-5.6 This lens is a little bigger than the 50mm but you don’t have to be quite as close to your subject to shoot. Plus, you have more options when it comes to framing an image since it isn’t a fixed focal length. However, in low-light conditions this lens isn’t great, so at night the 50mm was a way better option.
To me, the camera, as strange it may sound, is not that a big deal. I used a 17-year-old Canon camera, a 400D. If you want to do street photography you really do not need that much, even the smartphone is a good option. The only camera you need is that one that you feel confident with, one that you won’t struggle with. Not having a top of the line $6,000 camera is no excuse for not doing street photography. Just take what you have and explore.