First picking up a camera aged 16, it wasn’t until he moved to New York to study at the International Center of Photography on a scholarship, that the prospect of engaging with photography without a technical pedigree seemed at all possible. Being in New York opened his eyes to a world and style which later informed his own, confessing to having succumbed to the work of greats such as Richard Avedon, Joel Sternfeld, Martin Parr and Eugene Richards during his tenure. Before studying photography, Salvans studied Biology in Spain, admitting that it was there he was able to birth his own visual language — “That’s why I take photos of my own culture, people and landscape. I have to have a physical connection with the landscapes and an emotional connection with the people,” he explains.
Shot between 2006 and 2014, the series illustrates a generation of vacation-goers eager to unearth truth in the rhetoric of their (then) king, Juan Carlos I (1975–2015), whose rhapsodic assurances of ‘a better life to come’ tested a nation during economic crisis. In addition to the slew of ironic nationalist captions seen throughout the body of work (printed in a font mimicking the disingenuous text read by Carlos from teleprompters), Salvans has included an accompanying booklet containing extracts of fervent speeches by the likes of Kennedy, Mussolini and Churchill. Not political enough? Salvans goes on to explain: “My Kingdom not only refers to the territory over which a king reigns, but also the personal kingdoms we fight for; our car, our friends, our holiday apartment, our credit card, our body,” echoing much of what we see and hear today.
In its simplest form, Salvans describes the book’s initial concept as nothing more than a mere fascination with how people like to spend their free time. Almost as if it were an extension of his first book Nice To Meet You, “I decided to keep working with the same territory and activity (how people manage their free time). But I decided to change my point of view, so I decided to change from a 35mm camera to medium format” he explains. It was only as the project began to develop that Salvans decided to boldly politicize the work, explaining that he saw an opportunity to talk about more than just Spaniards on vacation. “I decided to politicize the work in a clear way — a work that talks about power.”
Most striking about My Kingdom is Salvans’ ability to lens a heartening sense of camaraderie and utmost relaxation among his fellow Spaniards, whom, despite their nation’s economic turmoil, were determined to relax. Beach towels pictured atop car bonnets, sun-chairs insouciantly sprawled throughout carparks as if they were the top-deck of a five-star cruise liner — scenes illustrated frequently throughout the body of work — showcase the optimistic resilience of Salvans’ compatriots at the time, as well as his own fascination with ‘the pursuit of happiness.' Meanwhile, with much incongruence, imagery of Spanish royals inhabiting Mediterranean mansions and enormous yachts frequented the front pages of European media outlets, while 39.5% of the nation’s population couldn’t afford to take a week’s holiday.
With a playful unembroidered visual commentary, Salvans is able to discerningly unpick the political paradox of an era while delivering an ethereal series of intimate documentary photographs – guiding his audience through a candid journey far-removed from the contrived.