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Seville and the Ballads of the Cyclops

El Cíclope Mecánico (t.n. The Mechanic Cyclops) is a photographic collective, initially created to organize a serie of events aimed at diffusing photography.

Everything began in 2006 with the creation of Las Baladas del Cíclope (t.n. The Ballads of Cyclops), a serie of audiovisual sessions in which photographic works were projected. They were also a forum and meeting place for photographers and photography fans.

Since the Ballads, the collective organized three editions of the first photography festival in the city, SevillaFoto, which was a great occasion to celebrate photography in a whole month of activities of all kinds. A lot of people came, from fans and general public to famous national and international figures in photography.

  At the same time Él Ciclope Mecánico has been exploring other means of diffusion, such as the radio program El Fotómata, the blog El Patio del Diablo (t.n. The Devil's Playground) and the online magazine of the Ballads, BD.

Moreover, during the past year, it reached an agreement with the gallery and school Él Fotómata, and also with the publisher of photography books Eclipse.

Today, the collective wants to give a new twist to its activity, being more active in purely photographic production. Without leaving its role in the organization of events, it took the challenge of creating and developing collective photographic works, a thing that so far happened only at individual level.

From Fotoaplauso we would like to ask you some questions.

El Cíclope Mecánico is a pioneer in Spain in organizing photographic projections. How did the idea of The Ballads, to project photography, occurr to you?
The idea came from a group of friends who shared the interest for photography. Given the need for photo-related events in the city, they decided to get together in a private home to share their work and to talk about photography. There, it arouse the possibility of doing that in a public space and to create a forum where photographers, fans and the general public could participate.

In the first editions we projected our own work and the one of friends and people we knew, but the impact was such that few time later we had works of photographers from all over the country, even from abroad.

Moreover, photographers as Navia, Perez Siquier, García Alix or Pep Bonet joined the Ballads, and also did people starting to take their first steps who had interesting proposals. Some of them, today, are successfull photographers. At that time, everybody looked more to their work than to their name.

The public success and impact of the Ballads brought us to several cities in Spain and abroad, such as Lisbon, in which we have projected three times, and Bristol, with the participation of collective Instant Coffees. In total there were more than 45 Ballads in which about 250 jobs were projected, in ten different cities.

Photography today has many outcomes (books, exhibitions, screenings, etc..) with very different languages??. What, in your opinión, characterizes the language of photographic audiovisual projections?

The combination of audio and photography makes the work take another dimension and it is important that this visual speech is in tune with the sequence and pace of the images. You can add everything, but you have to keep consistency. Putting an emotional song by Sigur Ros or Tom Waits is not enough, you have to create the sound track: sounds, music, transitions, it’s all part of the artistic piece.

Since 2006, when we started, till today we witnessed how the audiovisual format evolved, from classic slideshow to elaborate multimedia productions. Ambient sound from where the photographs had been taken or narrative voiceovers, multimedia synched with rhythm and surrounding music...

The integration of moving images and photography has further enriched the format, getting spectacular results like the ones by Mediastorm or, for example, by Pep Bonet and Kansei Sounds, recently awarded at the World Press Photo contest.

We guess that you select the works that you show in your sessions. What are the criteria that you use when you choose the projections that you bring to a session?

We try to select photographic works that go beyond the fact of displaying images with sound, having an interesting story behind, being either documental, personal, or more artistic and at the same time visually powerful or suggestive. We found many jobs working very well as books or exhibitions but viewed in form of projection it was clear thay they did not adapt well to this medium.

On the other hand we wanted the Ballads to be an opportunity for many people to show their first works and to share them with key people. Many of these emerging artists have grown and finally became important, having won prizes and scholarships. This fills us with satisfaction.

Since the collective has had different members at different stages there have been more photographic works of a kind or another depending a little on everybody personality, although in the collective and in the Ballads there has been always space for any style, providing that the work met the minimum quality and interest requisites to be shown. From pure documental works to others more poetic and personal, we try to keep a variety of styles and ways of seeing photography because we believe that this is something that enriches the Ballads.

What is the format of your sessions, The Ballads of Cyclops?
The format has evolved a bit but basically is the projection of a series of photographic works, from ten to twelve for about an hour of projection in total, with a pause, to relax the eye, of about 25 minutes.

Sometimes in the past if the author was attenting he/she presented his/her work and the event has also been used to present books, workshops or other kind of events. Nowadays we think that it’s better to reduce the time spent on the projections to, instead, dedícate it to presentations, discussions or debates. This basically to avoid missing the essence of a forum where lovers of photography in the city meet.

Do you collaborate with other initiatives within the field of photographic projections?
One of the most interesting things that occurred as a result of all this has been the chance to meet and create synergies with collectives and groups of people from elsewhere interested in the world of photography. We loved working with people and collectives like Blankpaper, Nophoto, Pandora, UFCA, None or Terra, Smoke, Rawiya, Samakineta, Instant Coffees, Phacto, Piel de Photo, Zphoto, etc ... in public events, like the one held in SevillaFoto, in thematic projections like the Ballads or in other events and festivals where we had the pleasure to participate, such as Traffic, ZaragozaPhoto, Visionaris, Scan ...

Besides photographic projections what other goals do you have as a collective?

Last year we were at a point where we thought we should take a step forward, and we wanted to create a collective photographic project. This because so far we had focused on organizational tasks and creation had always carried on individually.

Last November we presented a project to La Caixa Foundation grant "Fotopress". When we realized that we had been selected we got the final push for the challenge of producing a collective work.

Then, we took one sabbatic year and we suspended the Ballads to focus all our energies on this project. After summer we will see if we will do something more...

What are your future proposals in the world of photography?
Thanks to the partnership we have with El Fotómata (gallery and school) we have a space to develop our activities live and directly.

We have many ideas in mind, not only to continue with the Ballads, that have been our identity sign, but also to go to talks and discussions on photography, book presentations (there are plans to create the Photobook Club Sevilla), to diffuse photography in digital formats, in social networks, in vimeo channels...

Blogs like the El Patio del Diablo (t.n. The Devil’s Playground), managed by some members of the collective where the authors show works that interested them, received great attention, or any other new formula that allows us to share and enjoy photography, which ultimately has always been the leitmotif of the collective.

In the future we would love to organize an European photography collectives meeting, we will see if next year we can find the right content and infrastructure to carry it out.

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