Raíces, ‘El pla de grau’
text by Clara Privat
Geolocated in a 10-hectare agricultural area called Pla de Grau in the town of Malgrat de Mar (the last town in the north of the province of Barcelona). After the storm Gloria in January 2020 most of thesefields in Pla de Grau, have been destroyed. All images are taken on film.
Toni Privat has never left this project, he has evolved to other photographic projects perhaps more
poetic and evocative but still very attached to this one.
“Avi”* used to go to the field every day, with his R18*, ‘The car of the year’ said the sticker on the back of the car. Many years had passed, so many that he was now old along with the car too. Every day he got up and religiously followed his usual routine. He ate almond milk with cereal, dressed and went to the garage, where before, there had been pigs and horses, and now was his son’s field van and his R18 that he had used so much.
His life was the earth, he devoted himself fully to it. After the Spanish civil war he worked hard to make a good living and it was then that the earth bore fruit, in every way. Many families from the small and last coastal town of Barcelona were involved in agriculture; as well as almost 70% of the population in Spain.
The fields of “Avi” were in a place called ‘El pla de grau’ where a lot of farmers families had their own land. The fields of “avi” were distinguished by a simple but noble hut, made last century, next to a large walnut tree. It is there where they kept all their agricultural tools. Many neighbors listened to the advice of “avi”, he knew a lot about agriculture, he was a wise man. Each day, he looked after his land as if they were his own children and helped them grow.
His son followed in his legacy, working as much as his father in the growth of his land. The two were very prosperous and happy working together. In the 90’s there was great economic growth, so they were able to buy other land in the same area. Some time later and with globalization they saw how agriculture was declining. The population found other jobs that were not so hard: tourism, the economic bubble of construction, services; people had more options to study other careers and look for other professions; the boom of new technologies … and finally the economic crisis in the first decade of the 2000s. With all this, all jobs in the primary sector (agriculture, fishing, livestock) became obsolete and out of place in contemporary society.
Only in the countryside would the older people work, those people who like “avi” had seen the change, the transition from one of the strongest sectors in Spain to one of the weakest. Also the African immigrants would start coming to work on the land with their warm smiles would become part of the Catalan agricultural family.
*Avi means grandfather in Catalan
*R18 means Renault 18 (French car brand and model).
Luckily “avi” had his son, who had his other artistic ambitions anchored inside. His son, whom never left “avi” abandoned, and who despite his desire to travel and pursue other interests in his early youth, never forgot his interest in photography. He discovered it in the 70’s on one of his first trips to Europe, specifically in Italy. Since then he did not stop shooting photos with his film camera, first a Minolta; later, with more experience, his irreplaceable Leica by his side. He thus found a similarity between agricultural land and analog photography; both subjects are very precarious, very precise, very authentic. He learned the silence of the field and that of photography at the same time. He became a farmer-photographer.
Meanwhile there was the generational race; “avi” let his body die, but not his soul, leaving his inheritance to his son: life on earth (agricultural and spiritual). With all this, his son would build his first great photographic project; documenting and evoking his life in his profession: the few families that still work, the harmony and beauty of the fields, the poetry of its elements in them, the Zen air that every day breathes..
He attended special photography workshops in order to teach himself and develop his skills. Art, philosophy & nature have been his sources of inspirations. During all his life, he has cultivated the land as a farmer as well as his photography.
“I had so many intellectual, philosophical & spiritual influences, but most especially, the most important has been the agrarian culture that my father passed on to me”.
He captures photographs with the intention of discovering a mysterious dimension between emptiness & abundance.
1985 she is an actress and she is fascinated in photography and art in general. Clara wrote the story of the farm
project mainly marking the real story of his dad and his grandfather and valuing all the genuine farm photos of his dad.