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Monday, 19 April 2010


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Peter, these are beyond great. You've succeeded in capturing the event through the faces of the people who were there, and you create a sense of being in the middle of it all.

The event itself looks a bit creepy to me though, and I'm even from a predominantly christian country. It would surely raise quite a few eyebrows if those little boys were marching in a muslim festival, hooded and all.

I think Peter captured that most elusive of all subjects: atmosphere. Wonderful.

Constructive criticism; some wonderful images of course. The good images however, are negated by those of lower quality. Two options: portray this visually exciting event in 5-7 images PLUS one paragraph about the event itself. Or produce a entire book on it with a professional writer creating text about the event.
I find the shot of La Mantilla (four women in tradition dress) captivating and portraying the elegance, reverence and holiness of such an event. I do not get that feeling from most other images. My opinion only, of course; and I should add I was raised Catholic although I was not aware of this event at all. I applaude you for cutting Peter loose on such titillating journey.

There is a Semana Santa that is celebrated in Guatemala that I photographed at Easter in 2009. A lot of the traditions in the Guatemalan celebration are frozen in time, dating back to the 1600's. The regalias are different and some of the names of the icons, carpets (alfombra's) and anda's (floats), are also different. If anyone is interested, the URL to that gallery is http://www.siamimagesltd.com/-/siamimagesltd/gallery.asp?cat=132705&pID=1&row=5

I liked this portfolio a lot more than Carnaval or Haiti. The 4 ladies wearing the mantilla are certainly the strongest image (for me, anyway).

As an aside, it was nice to see members of the Guardia Civil (Spain's military-like police force) in the photos (one of them even smiling for the camera). After so many recent stories of photographers being harassed by police, this is a welcome change of pace (although I'd like to hear from Peter if he had any issues "behind the camera").

We all have our opinions about what is a good photo. Some photos have an effect on us and others may not, but it just seems inappropriate to offer criticism or tips and pointers to a successful and well respected artist. It is assumed that the pictures are the one's Pete liked, and that's good enough for me. I may mention which ones I like or even dislike, but would never suggest that he should change anything or edit out any part of his photo essay.

I think this is great work. Photo essays should, in my view, be thought of as a collection of pictures, each of which may serve a different purpose, but taken as a whole, they reveal the message or recreate the essence of an event. Each photo is not necessarily a work in itself, though a significant number would stand on their own.

Thank you Pete and Mike for sharing this with us.


Great series. One the one hand, there are many many highlights. On the other I have to agree, it's a bit much, resembling too much of someone's book of vacation photo's.
However, I did thoroughly enjoy taking in the great photographs in there!

The images are excellent (a few are even incredible), but I can't help but feel that this is a little underwhelming as it's currently presented--I think it either needs to be pared down to 10-15 images, or the posts need to be spread out so we get a new hit of images every 5-7 days. There's just too much here for a single day's posting--I'm feeling a little weary.

The odd mix of captioned and uncaptioned images also jumped out.

As a Spaniard, I must invite you to visit not only Seville, but my whole country. Semana Santa and other festival spreads over Spain.
I must recommend to see the pictures taken by spainsh photographer Cristina García Rodero (a Magnum member)

A fine set of photos which I enjoyed in the way I would enjoy a good slide show. The slide show reference is relevant because I also got the same feeling I would seeing Kodachromes - too much colour and too dark!
Peters choice of course, but to me it looked a bit like watching a badly set up TV with too much saturation.

Very nice to see Seville with people, the only time I was there it was August and over 100F even in the evening so folks stayed indoors.

Thanks Peter & Mike (good to be back on photography!), I'm inspired to visit Spain again soon.

Mr. Turnley's essay conveys (at least to me) a strong sense of the atmosphere of a relatively somber religious festival.
Interestingly, I can't look at the photographs of the Guardia Civil officers in their distinctive caps without seeing the dour faces of the three Guardia Civil members in the classic W. Eugene Smith image from his "Spanish Funeral" photo essay. Which goes to show we all bring something to our perception of any photograph, beyond what's objectively present in the image.

Don't know if it's just my monitor, but I find the skin tones too simple- artificial.

I really enjoyed this essay. A world so unknown to a nordic guy like me. 039 is the real gem for me, I will be coming back for a 2nd, 3rd... look. Thanks.

These photographs captured the exact feeling of participating in the Semana Santa. The processions were very serious undertakings and you can see it in the faces of the children. The dark and haunting atmosphere comes thru in Peter s photographs.

As a photographer we were allowed to join the processions and march thru the streets . Outside the processions,during the day, there were frequent celebrations often involving large extended families and we were invited to take as many photographs as we desired. I was there in the same processions shooting ;but ,also often observing Peter as he went about his work.

To really see these images as I have ..large....you have to do the double click on the thumbnail. If you look closely there often several additional points of interest in the photograph. Can you see the tears on the carrier in the final photograph for example. The activities in the background etc. These are photographs I will come back to again.

I find the criticisms of this wonderful work inexplicable. Have I wandered onto Flickr?

Also over the border in Braga, Portugal:


If comments are open, what is the point in complaining about people who give criticism? I don't have to agree with them, but I'll fight for their right to tell what they think. Mike could erase those comments, but I appreciate that he doesn't.

I think the presentation should be better, there are a lot of ways to show the big size pictures without having to click on each and every single one of them and then close each and every single pop-up-window with another click.

I do like the pictures very much. Having said that, I also have the feeling that there are too many pictures, but perhaps it's just because of the way they're presented - the click-click-clicking I've described.

Greetings from Germany

I really like the picture of a child dressed as a priest distributing sweets: the look of regal indifference on her (his?) face contrasts beautifully with the excitement of the recipients

World renowned photojournalist gives us a plethora of beautiful work and people complain that there is TOO MUCH of it? Do these people also only go through the first 20 pages of a photo book so as not to be overloaded? I'd give anything to get even more material and info from someone as talented as Peter (and Mike, for that matter).

That last one of the man who appears to be crying, though it may only be sweat, with the deifying blue above his head, is pure magic.

I agree that criticism is too easy, and it is also easy to labor under the impression that criticizing imparts some kind of authority on the criticizer, but this brings up an interesting question: Where do you draw the line? What level of photographer is generally considered above criticism? As Mike noted before, even HCB was criticized publicly in The New Yorker, but that's another line to consider...who is "allowed" to criticize without it being considered inappropriate?

Wonderful images. Whether or not the Web is the best place to view them is another question. The Web is an active medium-- people keep clicking to see what's behind the next link. There is a lot going on in some of these pictures, and there is a tension between wanting to explore an individual image and wanting to move on to the next one--a tension I don't feel when looking at photos in a book. That said, I'd rather see them online than not see them. Thanks to Mike and Peter for the posts.

Those people should be told they look like a Klan rally.


Good singles, many excellent. I'm not so sure about presentation and the edit. In order to get a feel for the location, I wish I would get a "scenic setter image" - something from a balcony / rooftop. Maybe, also a bit more variation in FOV (looks like 35mm all the way) and orientation (all horizontal). Maybe, that's just me: looking for the good old 80s/90s National Geographic Style. If you deviate from this "format", to my mind, you need to deviate much more wildly in order to create a new format that's valid (like those highly subjective stories by Alec Soth or Paolo Pellegrin).

Anyway, we all know we're knitpicking here. Wondering whether we're calling these images A+ or A++. It's Peter's incredible high standard of storytelling with images that we measure this particular project against. I wish I had Peter's "so-so" images in my "best-of" collection. So, all of my "critique" is to be taken with grain of salt.

Thank you also to TOP for running this highly valuable website/forum!!!


Thank you, Peter, for allowing your work to be published in this way. I doubt I would have seen it otherwise.

This is amazing, profound, beautiful work. The very stuff that makes the medium so compelling. I am honored to be in your audience.

While I agree that the work and the T.O.P. presentation are fair game for critique, I think it is helpful to put this project in context:

(1) The idea of this project is to see work that has been selected by the artist, rather than work that has been selected by an editor, publisher, or other intermediary. This allows the photographer to share their vision directly, and take risks that often aren’t possible in the print world, where commercial factors necessarily (if unfortunately) have to be considered in determining what is published (unless the photographer or publisher is independently wealthy and doesn’t mind losing money on the project). Moreover, it often isn’t possible to take risks in the online world, either. Newspapers, magazines and other publications have their own guidelines, their own “look” and their own technical “quality standards”. A slightly noisy, high ISO picture that isn’t perfectly color balanced might be difficult to publish on such websites, much less a series of such pictures. We also shouldn’t underestimate the degree to which our tastes, and our sense of what is a “good” picture, are shaped by the technical quality standards of such publications. This project allows us to see work that doesn’t necessarily meet those standards to determine for ourselves whether it has merit, and possibly recondition our sense of what is good photography. For the avoidance of doubt, please note that I am not saying that a picture is worthy of consideration just because it is not of high technical quality, nor am I saying that the pictures in newspapers and magazines that are of high technical quality are necessarily bad. But when was the last time that you looked at a series of non-war related pictures that didn’t meet such standards? And then think about how much we miss out on as a result of limitations imposed by such standards: consider many of the night and interior pictures taken by Peter in this series. A flash likely wouldn’t be appropriate in this setting, and even if it were, it would impart a very different look. Light conditions are low, the subjects are moving, the lighting is likely provided by candles or mixed artificial lighting, a tripod is impractical and the situation is fast-moving. High ISOs and wonky colors are a given. Should such work just never be published? Should it be recreated in a studio setting? Should pictures of such events only be published where it is possible to set up multiple strobes to light the event? Technical quality standards don’t just “raise the bar” to ensure that only good work gets published. It excludes huge areas of subject matter and various photographic styles.

(2) Peter Turnley is a busy man. And I hope this series will grow to include other photographers and photojournalists, each of whom is also likely quite busy. Asking them to select, sequence and caption photos is one thing, but asking them to get bogged down in considering presentation issues for little or no compensation is something else entirely, and would likely be enough to deter them from participating in the project entirely. Do we really want that?

(3) I suspect that this is a work in progress. The pictures were shot the week before Easter, just a few weeks ago. I am sure that Peter put in a fair amount of work in selecting these images and preparing them for publication here, but it may well be the case that if he decides to present them in a different format, or revisits them in a few months, that he will decide to narrow them down to a final cut or that he will reinterpret the images. But this is how the work looks right now, at this stage in the creative process, while fresh in his mind.

(4) Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Is the current presentation ideal? No. Should we therefore abandon the project entirely? I would hope not. It is all well and good to say “It should be done [this way] or [that way]”, but somebody actually has to do the work you are proposing. Having the photographers do this is a non-starter, and I doubt that Mike wants to get bogged down in that either. This is the nature of the project. It is a bit off-the-cuff, a bit rough-and-ready, a bit different and a bit of fun. That said, if you want an easy way to view the pictures in a more pleasing presentation, try “Readability” (http://lab.arc90.com/experiments/readability/), which I have mentioned previously. My settings are: “Inverse” style (to get a black background suitable for photo viewing and which is generally less straining for my eyes), “Large” size (again, easier on the eyes) and “Wide” margins (so I don’t have to scan left and right as much on my widescreen monitor). Using those settings with T.O.P., the pictures appear on a dark neutral background, are about the same size as if you clicked on each one individually (i.e., about twice the size they appear to be on the main T.O.P. website), and the captions/text are easily readable. And best of all, this solution doesn’t require any additional work by the photographer or Mike, and Readability is a very useful tool for other websites, too. Oh, and it’s free and takes about 3 seconds to install.

Speaking of free, how much does this website cost you…?

Best regards,

One thing I should mention: if you use Readability on the main T.O.P. blog page, it has a tendency to pick the wrong post (i.e., not the most recent one at the top) to display first. It works much better if you click through to the individual post and then activate Readability.


Pictures are really good.

But I feel awkward towards those colored (black/blue/...) KKK like hood. Sorry it is just that is my thinking every time I see a hood like that. KKK.

Just cannot stop myself. May have to be more open in mind.

The number one thing that is great about Art, and this type of photography is art, is to be able to talk about the images. Whether it be in a critical nature or not, if a photograph does not inspire conversation then it is lacking in something.
It is a funny thing in this day when our new batch of cameras are giving us the cleanest noise free images at the highest ISO's we have ever had, that I feel these images are too clean. They lack grit that one would associate with street images, maybe even some black and white or some type of color treatment. And I for one really don't like the color of the night shots, you can easily do a better color balance or go B+W, but that is purely a personal preference on my part. As for the subject matter you did a very good job in relating the event to the viewer and for me, shows that there is little difference in the fanaticism of the Catholic religion as compared to other religions in the world.

"But I feel awkward towards those colored (black/blue/...) KKK like hood. Sorry it is just that is my thinking every time I see a hood like that. KKK. Just cannot stop myself. May have to be more open in mind."

It's true; it's too bad about the retroactive association. The KKK consciously based its costumes on the Spanish Semana Santa robes, but the later definitely came first, and Semana Santa has nothing to do with the KKK and doesn't share its values or beliefs. In fact the KKK has been sporadically anti-Catholic as well as reactionary and racist in other, more familiar ways.

Retroactive associations are a fascinating topic. For instance, I saw a portfolio a few years ago consisting of portraits of a couple of dozen people whose real names were all "Harry Potter."


For one of the best photo-essays on Semana Santa by a local photographer, take a look at the David Jimenez's:


His website, www.muycerca.net, almost without words, is for the adventurous.

This is amazing work, as were the first two photo essays. I could look at the photo of the girl with the eye patch glasses all day.

I think that the complaints about this set are actually its and the internets strengths. Could there have only been fewer pics? Sure, but unless you choose only 1, someone will ask whether the "weaker" was necessary. Could all of the pics been enlarged? Sure, but having them smaller allows a quick perusal and then enlarging those that you really love. If you are someone that wants to look at each photo for hours, two extra clicks shouldn't be that big of a burden.

Anyway, Peter and Mike, thanks for an awesome feature of a great site.

I like these a lot. Of course I haven't seen the real thing, but I feel like I know a lot more about it than I did before. Lots of interesting contrasts, and quite a bit of bizarre clothing of one form and another.

Had to go back and check, but my memory was right -- not a single portrait-format image in the collection. I'm not complaining, while I was going back through them I looked again, and none of them said to me "I should be vertical"; I'm just somewhat surprised that it worked out that way.

And now I'm curious; Peter, if you're reading comments here, did it just work out that way, or did you make a decision before shooting, or did you make a policy decision during editing, or what?

Peter: I see you included the hoods, and I agree with the decision. Beautiful powerful images. Especially interesting to see how you edited down from the many that we saw in Seville. I have been to three Semana Santas and this captures the mystery and the color perfectly. Elinor Constable

Another plea for viewers to open these pictures in their own separate tabs (If you're using a current web browser, command-click on each picture if using a Mac or ctrl-click if using Windows.) It's a very, very strong set but not a single image delivers its full power when embedded within the web page.

Terrific approach and execution, Pete—I can tell more from the expressions and the clothing than I'd have believed. Also a much, much more powerful advert for Seville than anything in a tourist brochure or on a travel programme. Thank you!

Superficially, this event and the carnaval are similar; people dress up and there's a parade. But what a difference in the atmosphere!

I too like the shot of the four women wearing the mantilla. the woman at the front looks like she takes nonsense from no one! The shot of the three priests is another favourite. The different way each one holds themselves is very telling.

I couldn't give these pix my full attention until tonight, (Thursday) but it was worth the wait. Thanks, Peter.

Spanish catholicism is different from others in it's public face. I live in Portugal (right next to Spain) and our processions are not like this one. Wonderful photos!

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