Perfect Day is about the sea – and yet, throughout this expansive series, not one single droplet of ocean water is to be seen, not a solitary wave or ripple. The Spanish photographer Txema Salvans has been travelling along the Mediterranean coastline for 15 years working on this project, but his back is always turned on the water. Instead he turns around and looks at what has been attracted by the brilliant sunshine, the vistas, and the glittering shoreline – chiefly money, development, and people.
“In photography, that which is not shown determines the final sense as much as that which is shown,” says the photographer, whose project The Waiting Game we looked at in 2018. He describes Perfect Day as “a project about the Mediterranean, where the sea never appears, but the focus is on everything that the presence of the sea has provoked”.
The series, which has just been released as a book by Mack, for the most part consists of sweeping landscapes that are dominated by ugly, often ill-considered manmade structures. Human figures do appear, but they’re often small and buried in the foreground, dwarfed by the monstrous built environment around them. “We are heirs to the violence of those who came before us, and the Mediterranean has been deeply wronged,” says Txema. “And yet we’ve adapted. We’re bordering on dystopia.”
There is an amazing consistency to the photos, despite the long timeframe in which they were taken, something Txema attributes to his use of an analogue camera. “I am very aware of the limitations of the analogue, and it is precisely these limitations that make my work so aesthetically consistent,” he says. “Not being able to modify the files saves me from the ‘trends’ of the moment. Beyond contrast and luminosity, I have little margin.”
It’s a luxury he doesn’t afford himself on paid commissions, but for personal projects, he prefers this medium. “It leaves me in peace,” he says. “When I travel with my cameras, I can’t correct the second photo by looking at the first screen, and the third by looking at the second. I have no margin for error, I have to be totally connected with what I see and with my own intuition.”