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11 September 2023

Article - Interview

“A photo taken in two hours does not say a lot about the problem”

KörperMagazine in conversation with Jordi Barreras, documentary photographer from Catalonia established in London @jordibarreras

This summer Körper Magazine had the pleasure of talking to Jordi Barreras, a documentary photographer from Premiá de Mar, who was presenting his last project and photobook “Already But Not Yet” at the festival Luminic (Sant Cugat).
Starting his career as a photojournalist for Catalan newspapers, he became disappointed in the one-sided and often shallow approach of the media. His personal method includes an in-depth study of a chosen topic, a strong connection to local reality, and the search for visual metaphors to express his socio-political reflections.

Each of his projects lasts several years. Within the process, Jordi improvises and never has the fear to change the initial direction and redo all shootings from scratch. You can learn about these metamorphoses from his own introductory comments for each series, which are always an enjoyable piece of reading. Jordi explains his artistic searches, concepts, and even errors in those philosophical micro-manifests.

Jordi’s other trademark projects are “Walls”, “So Far So Close” which investigate the question of Chinese immigration in Santa Coloma de Gramenet, and “Saharawis”, where he reaffirms himself as a “photographer within a five-kilometer radius.” His credo is to cover problems in the nearest surroundings rather than somewhere far away, where a lack of context kills the truthfulness of representation.
Discover more about Jordi Barreras’ artistic vision, aspirations, and ideas in the interview below.


How did you start your career as a photojournalist in Barcelona? In which newspapers did you work?
I started my career in 2000 and used to work at El Periódico. Although my passion for photojournalism has developed from reading Grama, an independent magazine that started in the 1960s in Santa Coloma de Gramenet, my native neighbourhood. This media was writing about the necessities of working class districts and had a very political and collaborative society. A bunch of respectful local photojournalists came out of it. So, I was living in Premiá de Mar and was all the time trying to document accidents and local manifestations and sell my photos to the newspapers. They never bought anything. But one day we had very strong rains and inundations there, and my mother told me “Go take pictures of it!”. A bit before, by coincidence, I had an interview with El Periódico, but they never called me back. And suddenly, due to those strong inundations, they called me to prepare a report, and I already had some photos! So it all
started by chance!

Some years later, you became critical of photojournalism. How did you come to that point?
In my projects, I have always talked a lot about the immigration topic because I was born in Santa Coloma and was exposed to it. I started noticing that the media underlined mostly the conflictive side of it. For example, in 2002, some Muslims wanted to build a mosque in Premiá. A part of the locals was uncomfortable about it and did one manifestation against it. I was taking pictures of it for my work, but I was also living there and knew the whole context. I started noticing that the press does not investigate well but just makes a mountain out of a molehill. This was the first time I started doubting, and it affected my personal projects.

What is your preferred style of work?
I prefer to do long-term projects with more in-depth studies of the topic and reflections. In my opinion, a photo taken in two hours does not say a lot about the problem! At that time, I decided to prepare a study of a Senegalese family that lived in Premiá: I did a lot of follow-ups with them to cover the topic objectively. Also, I noticed that people who criticized the Chinese wave of immigration in Santa Coloma were former immigrants themselves in the 1960s. My own family came from Andalucía! If you look into the photo archive, you will see that they also lived with five other people in a tiny flat. That inspired me to create the series “So Far So Close” and to compare the two immigration communities.

You worked several years on your projects “Already But Not Yet” and “So Far So Close”, but in the end, both series have no more than 18-20 photos each. It should be a lot of work to sift so many pictures out!
The “Already but Not Yet” book has 22 photos. Out of 4015 taken images! I always select a small number of photos. In general, I do not shoot a lot of images. I think that a project should be closed with twenty photos, and I usually include no more than 15 photos in my portfolio. You should be brave to decide!

What’s your way to choose the best ones?
To print them, put them on the walls, and co-live with them while I work. So that I start later putting one picture off, then another, etc. When preparing “Already But Not Yet”, I printed and divided all images into series of triptychs, diptychs, and individual ones. At the beginning of my photobook, I include a photo of my room where you can see this process.

Do you ask someone for a second opinion when you prepare your projects?
I prefer not to show my work to many people, and I am very independent. In the end, each person can have their own opinion, and it will drive you crazy if you start listening to everyone. My work is very intuitive. I revise my photos at home alone, and yes, I do lots of theoretical investigation.

Do you change your initial idea in the process of working on your projects?
Quite a lot. When I decided to do “Walls”, my idea was to continue the topic started in the “So Far So Close” series. I wanted to reveal the secret life of the Chinese community, which is not well known to other people who often have prejudices about them. But it was very difficult to disclose it, as Chinese people did not open up to me. Also, the idea was kind of morbid. One of my Chinese interlocutors even told me that I would never succeed, as I should be born Chinese to understand them. After that, I changed the focus completely and started taking portraits of the Chinese in public spaces instead of private ones, so you can see their interaction with people. It was a radical change right in the middle of the project!

Did you make changes while working on “Already but Not Yet”?

Oh yes, I also searched myself, changed directions, and had doubts! Initially, I arrived in London and took my first tour around the City district on Sunday. I was impressed by how empty it was and what a contrast it made to the hustle and bustle of the working days. That image stuck in my head as an idea! Later, when I was already working on the series, I realized that the light changes and can be a great metaphor when it highlights the person standing in front of a monstrous, semi-dark corporate building. Conceptually, it is related to the political idea of Michel Foucault, who said that power is always in the shade, and to Byung-Chul Han’s thoughts on neo-liberal ideas of exploitation. I also applied my interest in architectural symbolism to represent those glass tower buildings as hidden oppression mechanisms. So, at some point, I started retaking all my pictures from scratch.

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Photographies part of the project "Already But Not Yet" (files provided by Jordi)

Jordi in Premià de Mar, Barcelona.

How do you decide the topic of your project, and where do you get your ideas from?
I always have a lot of ideas! I write them down, and later, it helps me to create a project. I write a lot; I have a diary, which serves as my raw document. In this way, I mark the process and evolution.

Are you one of the photographers who never leaves home without a camera?
Absolutely not! I can walk and even travel without a camera. If I have a project in mind, I come back with the camera. I do not take random individual photos. That’s why I actually do not publish often on social media.

By the way, do you have Instagram?
I do, but my niece says I do “shitty posts”. I use it mostly as a photo diary of my life.

Do you have any new projects in mind?
Yes, now I am preparing a series of financial centers in Europe. I love architecture, and the project is linked to “Already But Not Yet”.

Do you plan to do a new photobook?
I would like to, but now I want to focus more on expositions. Expositions mark your phases of creativity and are a great opportunity to show your work the best way possible.

Who is your audience?
It is both academic and also general audience. Even if the process of taking a particular image is very complex, I want it to be comprehensive for everyone. It hurts me if someone does not understand my work. When doing an expo, I always think that it might be the very first expo for someone in his or her life, so I want this person to be included and get my message.

What is good photography for you?
If it is documentary photography, for me, it is politics and realism. I almost never edit images. I use natural light.
My rule is that you can make some corrections, but do not recreate the image! I do not accept images that are not reality.

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If you wish to purchase the photobook "Already But Not Yet" click on the following link or contact Jordi directly at

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