“Flirting”

        “The Flirting”(1962)        Xavier Miserachs

Xavier Miserachs belongs to a generation of Catalan photographers who modernised Catalan photography at the beginning of the sixties. Maspons, Colita and Pomés, from Barcelona, or Ontañón and Masats from Madrid are some of his most important contemporaries. He studied medicine which he gave up to pursue a photographic career.

He was a multifaceted person with interests in many fields. He worked as a disk-jockey and he was also a member of the “gauche divine” in Barcelona, an advertising photographer, a teacher and a columnist. Miserachs was all of these and more as we can see in his memories, “Contact sheet” which he wrote just before leaving us, still young, in his sixties. His photography is direct, fresh, full of irony and a sense of humour; definitively without any complexes, which reflected his attitude to life.

That’s what we can see in the picture I have chosen. A street shot, captured in an instant without thinking. But not by coincidence, it’s clear. The photographer is walking along the street, eyes open with his camera at the ready. At that moment a group of young people walking up Via Layetana attract his attention; they are playing around and flirting with the girls passing by. He watches and decides to follow them for a while. Suddenly one of the boys leaves the group and approaches a girl who is passing by. The photographer raises his camera to his face and with no time to compose, fires off a shot doing his best. And here we have the excellent result of an action which is partially reflective –the seal for the moment- and partially instructive- the shorting itself.

The composition is presented to us in three focal planes. In the first one a young man is positioned at the centre of the image between the main subject and the photographer; it appears that if he doesn’t stop walking he is going to bump into him. Probably he wasn’t a welcome subject but nevertheless he was there and the photographer couldn’t miss his chance. But finally, when you consider the whole image, he becomes an clement of interest. He walks in the opposite direction from the group and his expression doesn’t look very friendly. Even though it’s obvious that this isn’t his story he contributes to the dynamic atmosphere that the overall image creates. We don’t find anything static; everyone is moving, even the black SEAT from Bilbao which is going down the street towards the post office and needs to take care not to run over our pedestrian.

It’s in the second focal plane where the main characters of the story appear. This young man is the most daring of all; he is a type of “Don Juan” who we all remember amongst our old school fellows inflamed by the feminine presence and probably encouraged by his friends admiration, he leaves the group. The girl who was walking down the pavement finds him practically on top of her. “Hello gorgeous”, shouts the boy, probably speaking in castillian Spanish, the language people used to flirt with in those days.

The girl, very elegant, with a fashionable hairstyle, is wearing an elegant white coat and unusually a tie around her neck. When the boy approaches her and he practically pounces on her, her expression is one of refusal; she walks out of his way and is forced to step off the pavement and walk in the road as the boy at the front of the photograph has done an instant before. At the back, in a third focal plane, the group of students, smartly dressed in sports jackets and coats typical of the beginning of the sixties, follow with interest the events that are taking place behind them. Very exited by the daring of their friend they turn round without stopping; their expressions and their smiles explain everything. It’s a ritual that, needless to say, has disappeared today substituted by new kinds of interaction. But, precisely in that time, more than forty years ago, the picture was already signalling a new photographic language, more interested in situations than in the formal composition of the image. All together, as I’ve said, it breathes movement and dynamism and it seems that instead of looking at a picture we were seeing a film scene.