Photographs by Peter Turnley
Introduction: It's always great to receive a new visual essay from our friend Peter Turnley, TOP's unofficial Foreign Correspondent. During the week before Easter, Peter was teaching a workshop organized around the world famous Semana Santa procession in Seville, Spain, and of course he used the opportunity to create his own photo story. This is new work, never before seen, first published here on TOP, as part of our ongoing cooperation with Peter to try to provide an outlet for new photojournalism.
Semana Santa is a most holy religious observance by the people of Seville that dates back to the late Middle Ages. The heart of of the observance are brotherhoods which organize ceremonial processions from their home churches to the Cathedral of Seville and back. The oldest of the brotherhoods, El Silencio, dates from the mid-1300s. Each procession bears a cross and pasos (floats) depicting scenes from the passion of Christ, sometimes in silence and sometimes accompanied by drums and trumpets.
It's really interesting to see the difference in Peter's coverage of the three events we've seen him cover: first, a humane and non-sensationalized look at the work on the ground after the terrible earthquake in Haiti; next, the seams, edges, and backdrops of Carnaval, one of the world's largest parties; and now Semana Santa, one of the world's most ritualized and historic public displays of religious fervor. All three are major events affecting and involving many people, but each is fundamentally different from each other. And although the artistic sensibility is the same, Peter's "take" on each event is so markedly different, in keeping, each time, with the nature of the event. As I said last week, this time Peter has focused on the faces in the crowds to help convey the unique atmosphere of Seville at Easter time.
Without further ado, on to the pictures. (If your have any comments, please leave them under the third post—thanks.)
A Semana Santa procession makes its way through narrow streets on its way to the Cathedral of Seville. These holy week processions have been going on since approximately 1350. Many of the people marching in these traditional processions called nazarenos wear costumes of different colors with pointed hoods called capirote, symbolizing repentance and grief.
During the processions incense is distributed, most often burned in metal containers (incensarios), which hang by a rope or chain and are swung about to disperse the scent. Some processions occur during the day while others are candlelit at night. During Semana Santa, the sweet smell of azahares (orange blossoms) muddled with incense and candle wax permeates the city.
The traditional clothes worn by women on Holy Thursday (and sometimes on Good Friday) is known as La Mantilla. The outfit consists of the lace mantle, stiffened by shell or another material, and a black dress.
The men that carry the floats or pasos are called costaleros, which means "sack men," for their headdress. They lift and carry the very heavy pasos. Each paso requires 24 to 54 costaleros to move. The processions often last often many hours.