“There are days when one walks around without getting a single photograph, without running into anything. …But there are other times when things are offered to me, like gifts. …But in order to seize that gift, one has to be prepared. If I am, and if my camera is there at the right moment, click, all I have to do is accept it.” —Édouard Boubat
When this photo was taken in 1956 in the rural village of Sotoserrano, Spain, the country was still under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco and many regions remained impoverished and unmodernized. The tightly composed image centers on a man in traditional dress and tattered shoes. He stands on a cobblestone street in front of a covered wagon with a wooden wheel almost as tall as he is. Based on the lettering of the wagon’s cover, the man appears to be one of the Gonzalez Brothers (“Hermanos Gonzalez”), owners of a “panadería,” or bakery in English. Two children on the left look on with somewhat perplexing expressions—the young girl seems concerned while the boy’s eyes are cast upwards at the sky. It’s as if Boubat stumbled into the middle of a little narrative, the participants pausing just briefly enough for him to capture their portrait.
What do you think daily life would have been like for this man at this particular time in history? What aspects of our lifestyle today might surprise him?
Traveling the world as a photojournalist for the French magazine Réalités, Boubat often found himself in just the right position to accept one of the “gifts” he mentions in the quote above. But, this claim that successful images simply presented themselves to him like gifts downplayed his keen vision as a photographer. If great pictures really were always just waiting around to be taken, then we all might be professional photographers, consistently in the right place at the right time with our camera in hand. However, as fellow photographer Frank Horvat once said, “Boubat looks at the world as if he had just landed and as if his eyes had just opened.” Through his photographs, we find a curiosity in the small moments of people’s lives that can easily go unnoticed. For this reason, Boubat’s photographs are, in themselves, little gifts.