Bárbara Vidal: Island

Mallorca is a picture-postcard island, with its idyllic beaches and exuberant nature. But the photographer Bárbara Vidal (Palma, 1979) is not interested in postcards. What she loves, and what captivates her, is the island’s enigmatic, brutal magic, something she portrays with her analogue camera as though it were a lunar landscape. 

Mallorca and the Mediterranean are everything to me. I often go away for work, and I have lived in Madrid and Barcelona for some periods. But the more I travel, the more I love Mallorca. The older I get, the more places I discover, there are always places left here to discover. It’s something genetic, it leaves me in awe in winter and in summer – perhaps moreso in winter, because in summer, we Mallorcans are losing the island a little...

When I see all these photos together, I realise just how brutal nature is. I am interested in the magical, the enigmatic, that slightly monstrous and dark side, as though it were from the beyond. How unpredictable the sea is, the amount of colours it can contain, it all seems like a mystery to me. I am grateful for having existed on the Earth. It is as though everything speaks to you. I will never tire of photographing all that surrounds me. 

As a child, my thing was drawing. I loved drawing with charcoal, or oil painting. I don’t remember why, but one day I signed up for photography lessons. I think I was intrigued by it. In those lessons, we did the typical exercises involving turning the light off and on, with photographic paper. And I was amazed by it, I said to myself, “This is magic.” It was very different to painting. Later on my father gave me a beautiful camera which I still use, a film Nikon with three lenses. I didn’t place much importance on it at the time, I wasn’t aware of what a camera was. But over the years, I always remind my father of it: I’m a photographer thanks to that gift. In fact, many of these photographs have been taken by that camera. It changed my life.

At the age of 18 I went to Madrid to do a master’s degree. The speed of the city made an impact on me. I started researching movement there, at the same time as I was doing my dissertation project for my school in Palma. The subject of this project was my inner fears.

On the master’s course, I was fortunate enough to have the great Spanish photographers of the day as my teachers - Alberto García Alix, Chema Madoz, Ouka Leele, Isabel Muñoz, Cristina García Rodero... It was fantastic to see that my idols were people like me – absent-minded, funny, normal.... People who had followed their dream and made it come true, with their successes and errors. And how? Because they followed their instincts, they were artistically true to their need for expression, whether or not it pleased others. From them, I learned that I would be able to work as a photographer, earn money and dedicate myself to what I loved. If you believe in yourself, something good will always come of it.

I have nearly always photographed women. I take photos of what is around me, and my female friends have always been my muses. We would go out into the nature, or to country houses; at first, it all started out like a little witches’ sabbath, something experimental, all of us naked in the countryside, drinking wine and eating, having fun and taking photos. The bare skin of a woman by the sea or in the countryside or anywhere has always seemed wonderful to me.

I don’t have anything against men! I love men, but I don’t know… I always feel more identified with woman, it is easier for me to express. Photographing women is like a recognition of myself, as though I were in front of an inner mirror. Seeing a woman shouting in the midst of nature, or running naked or moving – that is how I otten feel, asphyxiated, with a need to shed weight. That encounter of woman and nature is unconsciously what I need to live. 

I also believe that humankind has lost the way it should have initially followed a little bit. You realise that when you have a child. Now that I’m a mother, I can once again see how children enjoy themselves with a plant, blowing on a flower, being awestruck by an insect, or simply looking at the clouds. I believe all of us humans must have been like that to begin with, but society, or today’s pace of life, has led us to create cities, to the artificial, to lose contact with ourselves. We are animals and as such, our most original state is being in contact with nature. 

Taking photos of nature and then seeing them has a healing effect on me. But not only the photo – also the walk, the picnic, the company… Trying to halt time a little. Nowadays it is very difficult to stop one’s thoughts, sit down in the shade of a tree and tell yourself, “I’m going to stop thinking and look at what is around me, an anthill, a plant that is growing, this dead grasshopper that was just mauled by a cat..." I don’t know, trying to leave all your thoughts behind you, be in the present a little. Apparently our generation of social networks and mobile phones and computers, where everything is super-fast, finds this extremely difficult, and I include myself of course... It is very difficult, but I believe it is worth stopping for a few minutes every day to take stock of who we are and of the wonderful place we are all in”.”

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