See the boundary between the real and the imagined dissolve in these haunting photographs

In his photo project Shipwrecked, Spanish photographer Erola Arcalís reimagines the 25-metre long boat that was to be the home of artisan and anarchist Paco. But the ship was never to set sail in the Mediterranean. Using black and white images in his practice, Arcalis creates fictional narratives to navigate between the staged and the encountered.

7 October 2019
Text & images: Erola Arcalís

I’m originally from Menorca, a Spanish island in the Mediterranean. I’ve enjoyed all the benefits of moving freely within the EU: getting access to quality education abroad, learning from a rich cultural diversity, and receiving support from a number of art organisations that rely on European funding.

During my dissertation, I read works by Samuel Beckett, Bertolt Brecht, Federico García Lorca, and TS Eliot, all of whom wrote poetry during some of the darkest times in Europe’s recent history, and I think that had an impact on the way I see my work. I started incorporating a more poetic aspect into my practice and began to use text alongside my images. At the same time, I became increasingly interested in historical memory and myth as an archeological means both to investigate the past, and to tell a story.

Before I started Shipwreck Studies, I came across Hannah Collins’ book on Noah Purifoy’s sculptures, made from reclaimed materials in the Mojave Desert. The work was a response to Walker Evans’ Message from the Interior. I admired the way Collins combined the idea of the photograph as a testimony and an homage to both Evans and Purifoy, and how that relationship grounded the work.

There is a real sense of community that emerges when working with other photographers and participating in photography events in Europe. Despite the difficult times we’re living through, I believe photography is in a moment of openness. It is looking for direction, while still welcoming a diversity of themes, materials, and methods of communication. In relation to my own practice, my research is shifting to recent Spanish history and how artists, writers, and thinkers approached events during the Francoist regime.

Erola Arcalís is a photographer taking part in the Futures Platform, co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.