Last week I blogged images of the decorations on the streets of Gràcia, Barcelona, which were displayed for the duration of the annual week-long Festa Major. The festa culminates with a correfoc (fire-run) through the streets of the barri finishing with a tumultuous frenzy of costumed & horned, devilish gangs showering each other & anyone else who gets involved, with fire from their mighty, sulphurous & sparkly fire sticks!
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I love the correfoc tradition, which are big words for me considering that generally I dislike the concept of tradition. In this case though I make an exception simply because of the accessibility for the public to put themselves in danger for fun within an urban environment without interference or disruption from an authoritarian source. This year there was very little police presence on the streets ; a few guarda on electric mopeds riding up front of the procession signifying to the public that the spectacle of gangs of fire sprayers would soon be upon them.
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The event consists of several colles (gangs) parading their giant effigies of mythological creatures (usually conveyed by one or two people inside), towards Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia, whilst spraying fire around the streets by means of metal or wooden poles & sticks, which are designed so that several fireworks can be attached for lighting simultaneously.
Last year, as I discovered the correfoc unexpectedly on the night, I had only the Fuji X100 with me, which although a great camera, is not suitable for such low light conditions due to it's leaf shutter mechanism, which creates banding across the images when a high ISO is used.
This year I was better prepared with the Nikon D7000 & 35mm f1.8 lens. Perfect for getting in close & capturing the frenzied action of the hysteria, getting in tight on the subject & creating great bokeh, but also suitable for stepping back to a satellite position for capturing wider shots of the greater scene.
Between the colles & their destination are groups of people who take on a role of 'defenders' (it seems to me). They form human barriers across the streets & chant at the oncoming minions which inevitably break their ranks showering copious quantities of sulphurous sparks over the retreating bodies.
Finally the whole procession reaches Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia where the individual groups, traditionally preceeded by their own troupe of drummers, situate, one by one, their mythological effigies in the centre of the square, ready for the final display. This year there was a Gaudi salamander, dragon, witches with crescent moon, a woolly mammoth, tiger mosquito & horned demon. All the creations were superbly crafted, both technically & aesthetically.
After the infernal beasts have sputtered their last sparks into the sulfurous & humid night air it is time for all the colles to come together in a crescendo of brimstone such as is only usually witnessed on the 99th level of the descent into the hell-fire abyss & oblivion.
It's a great event to be involved in if you enjoy danger & the possibility of being blinded or even maimed. I had a fair bit of my hair melted & ended with a few bloody scabs on my scalp, shoulders & neck (it's too hot & humid to be wrapped up with so much protection). It's also a privileged opportunity for photographers to hone there skills in capturing chaos close up. Wonderful!
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I am a freelance photographer specialising in performance arts.
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