Brett Hetherington

Banner photos: Cornelia Kraft

Eva's eye

[Photo: Eva Parey, from Expulsiones Anunciadas]

 

(This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, Feb. 2020.)

Even if you just look at the titles of just a few of her solo exhibitions before you focus on the poignancy of her photography, you can get an idea of the scope of Eva Parey’s work: ‘Expulsions Foretold,’ ‘Chernobil Beach,’ ‘Princesses for sale,’ ‘Forced Nomads,’ ‘Gypsy lives,’ ‘The daughters of Durga.’  


From last summer until now, the Covid-19 pandemic was also the subject of an especially harrowing set of photos she took of life in Barcelona’s streets and treatment rooms. It has also meant that several of Eva’s recent exhibitions have had to move online.


I would say it’s near impossible to do justice to the best photography by attempting to use words to describe or comment on it. What I can express is how I’m taken in by her images because of the pure humanity that shines through them and how sensitively she frames her subjects.


The nucleus of her whole catalogue is people and the living environment but more particularly, people from minority groups or disadvantaged backgrounds.


These include children in Barcelona’s eviction-ravaged Meridiana, ethnic Kalash animists, slum-dwelling women in Mumbai, the victims of new segregation along the Slovak wall and Pakistani immigrants in Barcelona (including her photos of men at prayer in a mosque).


Much of Eva’s work can be viewed on her website (EvaParey.com). One project  she talks about there that has been widely displayed in galleries across Catalonia is titled ‘East Winds.’


According to her it’s “a portrait of the Romani Diaspora [concentrating on a family headed by Ioana,] a matriarch whose 15 children are dispersed across Europe, between Romania, France, Germany and Spain.”


In the section of pictures called ‘Under a Hot Tin Roof’ she says that “After living for a while in Barcelona, Ioana decided to return to Romania, taking care of her grandchildren.”


In Eva’s opinion her children “aspire to be like their elders who are their role models, putting them in the same position as their predecessors once they become adults: at the mercy of political decisions, socio-economic ups and downs and socially at the back of the queue. Emigration is the only way out.”


Her skills are not restricted to fixed images though. Recently, Eva’s first documentary film became available through Filmin. Called ‘Arrels fondes’ (Deep roots) and jointly directed by Pep Martínez, it’s an hour length co-production with IB3 Television in Catalan with English or Castellano subtitles.


As a “journey through the branches of memory on the island of Formentera from the Franco regime to its opening to tourism, locals on the island of Formentera narrate how they survived the famine in the mid-1950s.


Through autumn to summer, the island's transformation is shown, “from tranquillity to tourist saturation with globalization causing the inevitable loss of certain ancestral customs, despite the retired peasants remaining rooted in land and sea; a deep bond that few young people inherit.”


Eva appears to not be content with her substantial creative output since 2006, sharing her knowledge by teaching photography at the Tecnocampus University of Mataró and photojournalism at the UPF in Barcelona. Her professional history also includes participation in collective and group shows such as ‘Photojournalists: looking at violence against women in the world,’ which was held in Barcelona’s Institut Català de la Dona in 2019.


George Orwell wrote that “ As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents.” I’d argue that the progressive left could certainly do with a lot less factional tribalists and a lot more people like Eva Parey.

She’s someone who quietly gets on with using their empathy and talents to reveal the human damage that the capitalist machine is doing every day to countless millions across our groaning planet.