Photographers Sole Satana and José Valiente are from a small town located in the south east of Spain called Lorca. Having grown up together and studied photography at the same university, the duo’s interests and preferences have evolved harmoniously over time. This includes a curious inclination to the meat industry’s inner workings, which are explored in their first collaborative series, Fiambre.
Pork Week is an annual agricultural and livestock event held in Lorca. Yet, the duo had never taken much notice of it. “We have always known about it, but it never interested us much. After living in a different city for seven years, we thought that it might be interesting to document the festival. So we showed up and photographed it with our own vision,” Sole and José tell It’s Nice That. From countless stacks of blood-red sausages to close-ups of pig testicles, Sole and José’s visceral images transport the viewer to the centre of the meaty fiesta.
Sole and José’s arresting photographs don’t shy away from the carnality of meat-handling. “We looked for powerful and raw images, we like a bit of ugly-worshipping. We love ‘Costumbrismo’ and we found the idea of documenting something that we consider so traditional and outdated in a contemporary way interesting. A colourful and surreal picture of something that is the total opposite,” they explain. Fiambre’s strength lies in the duo’s knack for spotting unsettling links between the butchers and the meat they sell; in one image, a woman’s brown hair looks as though it belongs on the wall next to the hanging pig thighs; in another a man is laying out prosciutto, his hand the same colour as the pork slab.
“It was shocking to see important businessmen and pigs together in the same place, as well as humble farmers and people that only came for the food,” the duo says. Sole and José were particularly struck by people’s desensitisation and detachment from the living animals in front of them; kids, they say, would be playing and engaging with the pigs while their parents debated how much meat they could yield from them. “The fact that you can see people eating ham in front of a living pig could be considered ‘normal’, but we found it a little bit creepy. We like to play with the duality between normal and peculiar, and present it in a satirical way.”
Fiambre is above all a timely critique of the meat industry and the grotesque commodification of animals. Through their series, the duo came to realise just how compatible their interests and aesthetic preferences are. “We talked about how we wanted to do it and what we wanted to focus on. Everything proceeded to flow in a very natural and fluid way. So this series was the starting point for new collaborations.”