Alex's story on the bullfighter made to the New York Times Lens - photography, video and visual journalism section.
Here is the Author sharing the story behind his pictures:
I was never very interested in bullfighting.
Growing up in Spain, I was exposed to this medieval blood-sport from an early age. At the height of the bullfighting season, I would watch on television, following with a curious, detached, morbid interest.
It was only last year, that I took a closer look at bullfighting again, this time, with my cameras.
A childhood friend of mine, had become a celebrity on Spanish television; she married a very wealthy hotel magnate; Antonio Catalan, founder of the AC Hotel chain. They had a son, Antonio (Toñete).
Toñete was now 18, recently graduated from high school, fighting and killing young bulls; a novillero. Through him, I had a personal entree into the closed, tradition-bound world of bullfighting.
Except now, in modern Spain, bullfighting has less aficionados, banned in cities like Barcelona, and condemned in the EU parliament. Bullfighters are on the defensive.
I wanted to know why a young man, with so many options available to him, would choose the life of a Matador. Traditionally, the ranks of bullfighters were filled from poor agrarian communities. Only the most famous Matadors could command $300,000.00 for an afternoon of bullfighting; for the majority, it was a life of sacrifice.
The life of a young novillero, is marked by long days traveling throughout Spain, negotiating with breeders for practice on their ranches. Those that can afford to, hire an apoderado. This is usually a retired bullfighter that acts as a trainer, manager and representative for the young bullfighter. The better connected the trainer, the better chances of exposure for the young bullfighter.
Toñete's father is paying for one of the top apoderado’s of Spain. He also pays for an entourage of about 4-5 people, assisting his son, all traveling by mini van on the rural roads of Spain. They stay at the father's hotels, and pretty much have all their expenses paid for.
Now all he has to do, is show some talent. With all the money and talent backing him, the young bullfighter has to show something big of himself.
He has incredible grace and maturity under this pressure. Toñete has very polished social skills for a young man his age. If he has doubts about his abilities, he does not reveal them.
When it is show time, when he dons his suit of lights, and walks into the bullring, his demeanor changes visibly. Toñete turns into himself, with intense concentration, he becomes a bullfighter. It is an extraordinary metamorphosis. His voice deepens, few words come out, when they do, they are pointed, and decisive. He is not only putting on the suit of lights, he is cloaking himself in centuries of Spanish traditions. This is what he really enjoys; living in, and with the traditions.
I enjoy documenting this whole process, trying to understand this crazy, bloody spectacle, and the men who live it, where does this fit in the modern world, and how do they see themselves in that world?
This last year La Petite Trianon changed its name to the Trianon Theatre. This very act led to a "New Beginning" by developing new cultural opportunities. Under the creative leadership of David Eisbach, the home of the local performing arts has welcomed in the visual arts with their new gallery. Working with Art Director David Eisbach, local ad hoc art and culture organizer Bea Garth introduces the exhibit “New Beginnings” to the Trianon Theatre Art Gallery, a foray into the vibrant local arts scene.
The featured artists and poets for the “New Beginnings Art Exhibit” are all part of the growing underground cultural renaissance in the San Jose area represented by various groups like Quicksilver Artists, the Navarre Group, San Jose Art Salon, The Citadel, Works/San Jose Gallery, Studio Bongiorno, Kaleid Gallery and others. The artists were chosen for their exceptional artistic talent. “New Beginnings” will be an art exhibit you won’t want to miss!
There will be an art reception for "New Beginnings Art Exhibit" October 18th from 5:30 to 9:00 PM. This will be a chance for you to meet the artists and see their work. The evening event will feature experimental jazz fusion by "Under The Bridge" (Chris Arcus, James Pollard and John Kurtyka) and a short performance by Nils Peterson’s “The For This Hour Singers”. Nils Peterson (first poet Laureate of San Jose) features poems made in close collaboration with the accomplished sculptor and watercolorist Lorraine Capparell, will also be featured along with a taste of underground poetry by Bea Garth and John Kurtyka, plus David Eisbach. Refreshments will be served. A $5 dollar donation will be requested, but no one will be turned away.