Joya: AiR / Walter Lewis / UK
¨My visit to Joya: AiR in February 2019 was a second stay, some 12 months after first visiting this unique place. I returned to try to complete a project borne out of the experience of my first visit. I am a photographer who seeks to challenge our general lack of relationship with the world around us, in particular looking to narrate my personal experiences of place and space in hope of inspiring others to see the world anew. I booked on a residency with Joya in 2018 intrigued but with an open mind. I was quickly captivated by Cortijada Los Gázquez (home of Joya: AiR) and its surrounds. A love affair had begun.
Cortijada Los Gázquez sits in a vast bowl of land within the Sierra Maria mountains of Andalucía, some 3,000 feet above sea level. The surrounding land is arid and barren – indeed technically it is desert so small is the annual rainfall. Agriculturally it is fit only for almonds and a few cereals, with a constant battle to keep at bay the marauding pine trees which fill the rest of the area - give them half a chance and they take over virtually anywhere.
Just a few dirt track roads run through the area. The place is littered with abandoned farms as people have left for the surrounding towns – and even emigration - and a more comfortable, on-grid living. As a result you just get the odd passing car – often a hunter looking for wild boar - or tractor carrying a solitary commuting farmer who has come in to work on his crops. Otherwise just ghosts.
The result is that you can walk miles without seeing another human being, oblivious to anything outside the immediate stark yet beautiful landscape. It’s a landscape often ripped asunder by the storm water channels or 'barrancos' gouged out of the land by infrequent but torrential rains when they do come. Such torrents though are of increasing in frequency as climate change grips the earth, they seem to represent a foretaste of our own disappearance. Thus, whilst walking alone I walked with the ghosts of past, present and future as my constant company.
On my return to the UK, I found unable to get out everything that I wanted from the images I had made. I needed to return. I was lucky enough to have the time and money to be able to do so and have Simon and Donna welcome me again. Time will tell whether I can now express the unique experiences with a collection of images. I will post a link here to the result when I do. In the meantime, a brief insight into the sort of thing that might arise can be gained from a quick glance at my website – www.spiritoftheland.co.uk”