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Visual Essays

Vol. 6 No. 1 (2021): Visual Spaces of Change: photographic documentation of environmental transformations

Where the Dust Has Settled




The Spanish word Despoblado, aptly describes Iñaki Bergera’s last photographic series. It translates rather directly in English as depopulated, but its rich Spanish etymology also alludes to the process of unravelling of a human settlement. Fittingly, the images present us with the reality of the abandoned villages in the hillsides of the Spanish Pyrenees. These are ruins of small hamlets, made up of stone cottages carefully clustered together, each of them hugging the topography of the site and collectively forming patterns that are a direct translation of the rural modes of production that made them possible.

The images are crisp and calm, and as always with Bergera, the approach is a hybrid between the documentary impulse of topographic photography, and the careful depiction of space more typical of professional architectural photography. More specifically in this case, there seems to be a strong division of labor, with orthographic aerial images that capture the layout of each group of buildings with Cartesian precision, and a series of subjective shots in which the interior and interstitial spaces of the structures are portrayed carefully and lovingly at eye level, as if they were still in use.