Carlos Alba, The Taste of the Wind

JTF (just the facts): Published by Landskrona Foto Publishing in 2019 (here). Softcover in handmade wooden box, with 28 archival images and 64 photographs. Includes an essay by the artist (in English/Swedish) and interview captions. In an edition of 500 copies, signed and numbered. Design by Carlos Alba. (Cover and spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: The Taste of the Wind is the second photobook by Carlos Alba, a photographer and a visual artist from Spain. His earlier publication, The Observation of Trifles (reviewed here), told the story of a foreigner finding his way in a new country; it playfully documented Alba’s wanderings around East London, using a hand-drawn map and a selection of found objects to trigger neighborhood connections. Alba’s new book focuses on Landskrona, a town in the south of Sweden. Few countries in Europe have been as welcoming to refugees as Sweden, and according to Alba’s research sources, Landskrona has one of the highest proportions of asylum seekers per inhabitant in the region. 

Alba worked on the project during his residency at Landskrona Foto in 2017. In a similar manner to his previous body of work, he spent time walking around, meeting people, and taking photographs, as well as researching and collecting archival documents. In the essay accompanying the book, Alba notes that he “wanted to seek different views and gather documents that helped me study and assess the complex society of Landskrona and its political situation.” The body of work combines Alba’s photographs, interviews drawn from his daily encounters, and archival materials from the Landskrona Museum.

While researching the photography collection of the museum, Alba discovered an archive that included photos of people who were likely the first refugees to settle in the area. Landskrona received many refugees after the Second World War, and also became the home to immigrants from Chile and the Balkans. Alba says that “a selection from a photographic archive can support our memory, giving us more information about our past and keeping us from forgetting,” and he thoughtfully combines these archival materials with photographs of the city today to visually reflect how the community is changing. 

The Taste of the Wind comes in a handmade wooden box closed with two small nails; the artist’s name and the title are stamped on the top. The book inside has a soft cover with a hidden spiral binding. The cover itself is yellow, and a drawing of the city from the above appears at the bottom. Most of the pages in the book are shorter than usual, displaying square format full bleed images; these are periodically interrupted by full size spreads with multiple images (in misregistered colors) and short quotes from residents. 

The book opens with a historical black and white photograph depicting a street corner of Landskrona. It is followed by a spread pairing another two historical images: a group photo of young women (perhaps working or attending classes together) and a portrait of a black man with a cigarette, offering contrasts of time and race. Alba further sets the historical context before moving to current shots of a ship crossing the water, followed by portraits of people and their surroundings. The perspective shifts back and forth between archival black and white images and contemporary photos of residents and the surroundings of the town. Alba has also enlarged some of the archival photos – a vase with flowers next to a chalkboard in a classroom, a child holding a doll, hands knitting, a plate with food, children playing – inviting us to examine the records of the past more closely.

Alba’s portraits of Landskrona’s residents are generally taken outside: a dreamy portrait of a young woman looking back at us, a boy whose face is obscured by a fence and the shadow from a metal pole, two girls sharing a bike, an older couple, a guy in a black car wearing a Hugo Boss hoodie. A number of quotes placed throughout the book add a personal element to the visual narrative. “We moved to Landskrona 3 years ago from Syria’s war where we lost our families. We met at the Swedish language course and we got married last year,” reads one of them.  

In addition to the portraits from his daily encounters, Alba’s images are filled with the everyday observations of a curious outsider: a swan hiding its head, an outdoor swimming pool in a residential area, a pile of bricks next to a house, a sewer grate surrounded by green grass, and flowers fallen from the trees. In creating his hybrid visual flow, Alba looked for connections in the society today, and added archival photographs tracing connections between the past and the present. 

Alba describes this project as “a tribute to the people who are always looking for freedom. They don’t know if they will find it, but at least they can enjoy tasting the wind.” As Europe changes, Alba hopes that the process will also offer an opportunity for individuals to grow and prosper, despite the rise of right-wing populism, racism, and xenophobia. A more local place like Landskrona is constantly evolving too, and as history shows, it is ultimately up to us, as individuals and communities, how we will shape it. 

Collector’s POV: Carlos Alba does not appear to have consistent gallery representation at this time. As a result, interested collectors should likely follow up directly with the artist via his website (linked in the sidebar). 

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