The magazine of the art-form of the photo-essay
May 2016 back issue
by Alex Quesada
A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous! Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
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I was never very interested in bullfighting. But growing up in Spain, I was exposed to this medieval blood-sport from an early age. At the height of the bullfighting season, I would watch on television, following with a curious, detached, morbid interest. It was only last year, that I took a closer look at bullfighting again, this time, with my cameras. A childhood friend of mine, had become a celebrity on Spanish television; she married a very wealthy hotel magnate; Antonio Catalan, founder of the AC Hotel chain. They had a son, Antonio (Toñete). Toñete was now 18, recently graduated from high school, fighting and killing young bulls; a novillero. Through him, I had a personal entree into the closed, tradition-bound world of bullfighting. In modern Spain, bullfighting has less aficionados, banned in cities like Barcelona, and condemned in the EU parliament. Bullfighters are on the defensive.  I wanted to know why a young man, with many options available to him, would choose the life of a Matador.  Traditionally, the ranks of bullfighters were filled from poor agrarian communities. Only the most famous Matadors could command $300,000.00 for an afternoon of bullfighting; for the majority, it was a life of sacrifice. The life of a young novillero, is one of long days traveling throughout Spain, negotiating with breeders for practice on their ranches. Those that can afford to, hire an apoderado. This is usually a retired bullfighter who acts as a trainer, manager and representative for the young bullfighter. The better connected the trainer, the better chances of exposure for the young bullfighter. Toñete's father is paying for one of the top apoderados of Spain. He pays for the other talent as well, who travel with his son. In total, an entourage of about 4-5 people, all traveling in an Audi SUV and mini van. They stay at the father's hotels, and pretty much have all their expenses paid for. Then there is Enrique Ponce: arguably, one of Spain's highest paid Matadors. A millionaire several times over, Ponce has acted as a benevolent patron to young Toñete, opening many doors for the aspiring bullfighter. Now all he has to do, is show some talent. With all the money and talent backing him, the young bullfighter has to show something big of himself. He has incredible grace and maturity under pressure. Toñete has very polished social skills for a young man his age. If he has doubts about his abilities, he does not reveal them. When it is show time, when he dons his suit of lights, and walks into the bullring, his demeanor changes, visibly. Toñete turns into himself, with intense concentration, he becomes a bullfighter. It is an extraordinary metamorphosis. His voice deepens, few words come out, when they do, they are pointed, and decisive. It is as if he is not only putting on the suit of lights, he is cloaking himself in centuries of Spanish traditions. I enjoy documenting this whole process, trying to understand this crazy, bloody spectacle, and the men who live it. Where does this fit in the modern world, and how do they see themselves in that world?  
Madrid, Spain. Toñete regularly tweets and posts his achievements and thoughts on bullfighting on social media. Getting ready to drive over to a tailor, for some adjustments to his bullfighting suits, all handmade and quite expensive.
Toñete training in a park on the outskirts of Madrid, with a friend.
Salamanca, Spain. Tote enters the arena at the Vellosino ranch, for an afternoon of training with some spirited breeding cows.
Salamanca, Spain.  A familiar scene throughout the centuries in Spain.
Salamanca, Spain. Toñete with his friend and bullfighter, Paco Ureña, listen to some harsh criticism from their trainer Manolo, who is displeased with their performance while training at a breeder's ranch. With them is a young apprentice, who is tagging along, looking for tips on how to be a good bullfighter.
Madrid, Spain. Madonnas, matadors & math homework: the bulletin board in Toñete's bedroom.
Iscar, Valladolid, Spain. The small town is the site of one of Spain's few covered bullrings. Before the end of summer festivities, bullfighters come to train here. Tote and his friend Paco Ureña will spend several hours here with their trainer Manolo.
Valladolid, Spain.  In the woods on the outskirts of the city, the bullfighters train the day before a big fight. Tote (in white shirt), with his traveling companion and matador, Paco Ureña.
Jaen province, Spain. Driving through the olive groves of Andalusia, to enrol for a bullfight. The suit of lights on Toñete, reflects in the sunlight.
Navas de San Juan. Jaen province, Spain. Toñete and the other young bullfighters prepare to enter the arena.
Higuera de las Dueñas, Ávila, Spain. Toñete kills his first bull of the afternoon.
Higuera de las Dueñas. Province of Avila, Spain. In this small town, a bullfight marks the end of the summer festival season. Toñete and his crew take the celebratory walk around the arena, and greet well wishers at the end of his corrida.
Higuera de las Dueñas. Province of Avila, Spain. Toñete meets female admirers at the town tavern, where a party is in progress for the bullfighters and invited guests.
Somewhere in  Spain. Toñete sleeps in the van, as his crew drives to another town, for another fight. This time, they are headed for Salamanca.
Salamanca, Spain. Toñete and his manservant, Titi Campillo, in a hotel room, get ready for tonight's big fight.
Salamanca, Spain. The historic bullring of Salamanca, is big, and is the venue for tonight's six bullfights. This is a big night for the novilleros, young bullfighters that aspire to one day being called Matador. The bullfighters help each other with last minute adjustments.
Salamanca, Spain. Toñete the bullfighter; a young man goes off to work.
Salamanca,  Spain. The historic bullring of Salamanca, is big, and is the venue for tonight's six bullfights. This is a big night for the novilleros, young bullfighters that aspire to, one day, being called Matador.  Showtime!
Salamanca, Spain. The historic bullring of Salamanca, is big, and is the venue for tonight's six bullfights. This is a big night for the novilleros. Toñete shows some crowd pleasing bravaodo, exposing himself to his bull.
The historic bullring of Salamanca, is big, and the venue for tonight's six bullfights. This is a big night for the novilleros, young bullfighters that aspire to one day being called Matador. Toñete gets last minute advice from everybody.
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