World Press Photo

Barcelona bans bullfighter photo from exhibition ads

City Hall elects not to display "metaphorical" prize-winning image

The photograph of bullfighter Juan José Padilla will not appear on the World Press Photo banners.
The photograph of bullfighter Juan José Padilla will not appear on the World Press Photo banners. DANIEL OCHOA DE OLZA

Daniel Ochoa de Olza's photograph of bullfighter Juan José Padilla's return to the ring five months after receiving a near lethal goring to the face won him second prize in the prestigious World Press Photo photojournalism competition. Nevertheless Barcelona City Hall does not consider it appropriate to appear on the street banners promoting the exhibition of the prize-winning works to be hosted at the Barcelona Contemporary Culture Center (CCCB) from November 9. Bullfighting was banned throughout Catalonia in 2010.

"There hasn't been any veto," says a City Hall spokesman. "We're talking about a normal process by which the city council can choose what images are exhibited in this space, which offers free entry."

The final decision on the matter falls to municipal government communication chief Marc Puig, of the CiU Catalan nationalist bloc. "We're asking the organization to present us with other alternatives," he explains. City Hall sources say the photo of Padilla will be replaced by an image taken by Dutch photographer Ananda van der Pluijm showing a young man shielding his face with his hand, as though avoiding being hit.

The CCCB is mediating between the municipal government and the Photographic Social Vision foundation, which has organized the World Press Photo exhibition in Barcelona for the last nine years. In the past, the CCCB says, images considered too graphic or that might damage people's sensibilities have been changed.

It's not about being anti- or pro-bullfighting. It's a different message"

Silvia Omedes of Photographic Social Vision says the photograph - which depicts the face of Padilla, dressed in green and with a patch over his right eye - was chosen because it is "simple, metaphorical and shows the fighting spirit of a man who is confronting his reality. It is a great message for the current situation of the country.

"It's not about being anti- or pro-bullfighting. It's a different message," she adds.

All the other publicity material for the show aside from the banners will feature the Padilla image. "We also chose it because it is by a Spanish photographer. For the first time ever this year there are six Spanish prize winners and the World Press Photo award is first of all a platform for our talent," Omedes says. The author of the photo, Ochoa de Olza, carried out part of his training in Barcelona.

This latest cultural row comes after the Barcelona History Museum recently blocked historical TV series Isabel from filming episodes in the city's Plaça del Rei, arguing first that the script mixed reality and fiction, and later that flags could not be placed on the walls of the historic square.

A scene involving bulls in forthcoming thriller The Gunman , starring Sean Penn and Javier Bardem, was also recently hampered in the city. It was ultimately shot in Barcelona's La Monumental bullring but with no real bullfighting involved.

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