Lola Álvarez is a graduate of Fine Arts from Chelsea College of Art in London, where she trained in painting, illustration, and mixed media. She discovered the technique of the Tintype thanks to the photographer Geoffrey Berliner. A highly specialized process that revolutionized photography in 1860. To learn such a complex technique, she completed her training at the prestigious Penumbra Foundation New York. Lola attended the renowned artist, Joni Sternbach, in Biarritz. In 2019 she held her first solo exhibition at PhotoSchweiz (Zurich).
Photo: Claire O’Keefe
The tintype, also known as a ferrotype, is an 1860 historical photograph of a direct positive on a thin sheet of iron coated with a dark lacquer or enamel and used as the support for photographic emulsion. Treated with a layer of silver nitrate and collodion.
“Each print is unique and indestructible”
Each print is unique, takes 15 minutes to complete and is indestructible once varnished. The artist uses, as a working tool, a Pezval lens from the 19th century among other historical lenses, with which she manages to create powerful portraits that she alludes to as “a celebration of imperfection and great realism”.
Lola’s exhibition, Els Pescadors de Palma, is an action to value the priceless work of the fishermen of La Lonja, as a differentiating element of their essence, historical heritage, and socio-cultural self-determination. At Mallorca Sotheby’s International Realty, we support the local community through the participation in cultural, sports, and social events. On this occasion, we have had the privilege of supporting this exhibition and chatting with the artist.
“A celebration of imperfection and great realism”
Photo: Claire O’Keefe
How did your artistic career start?
Sometimes fate, picks you up by the back of the collar and drops you off in the right department.
When and how did you discover that you were an artist?
From the Latin, ars, art consists of the expression of sensations, emotions, and ideas through plastic, linguistic or sound resources. I think that in a certain way we were all born artists, since we have the freedom to express our feelings without imposed limits. I don’t remember living without these forms of expression. Therefore, I think it is a constant discovery.
How did you get to the photographic technique as a form of expression?
When I studied fine art, we looked at the subject of analog and digital photography. But I still did not know this historical technique, which years later I fell in love with. Seeing the negative image appear with reflected light and black background, it is mysterious and captures the essence of the moment. An image may be a secret about a secret. The more you come to discover, the more you know that you don’t know.
Why did you want to portray Majorcan fishermen?
Every day that I spent in front of La Lonja, I was intrigued by the idea of one day being able to represent these men of the sea with this historical technique. Palma, among many things, has something very special, since it can look like an active fish market, with certain fishermen who carry out sustainable and traditional fishing. It always fascinated me.
Photo: Lola Álvarez Instagram
What inspires you about Mallorca to reflect it in your work?
The tintype is a reunion of a contemporary expression combined with historical art. Living in a world satiated with visual and superficial stimuli, I am enthusiastic about this form of photography, since a piece is made with hands, involving technique and chemistry applied with great care and affection. I feel that time stops, and the photograph recovers its identity of becoming a palpable object, when the image slowly appears. Both the nature and the light of Mallorca inspire me daily.
What differences it from your native Galicia or with the other places where you have lived?
I was born and raised in Switzerland. Seeing breathtakingly beautiful mountains and crystal-clear lakes are part of my memories. When visiting Mallorca, I discovered the Sierra de Tramontana with its bucolic views, coves with turquoise water, ancient olive trees and this unique light. I fell in love with the Mediterranean, with “Sa Roqueta”.
How was the response of the fishermen, austere and hardened workers, while you photographed them?
I was lucky enough to be able to spend three months in a booth at the Lonja, where I set up my camera obscura to develop and prepare the images. The daily visits led me to connect with the fishermen, who gave me their valuable time and trust to photograph them. This tribute is for the men of the Lonja, those who carry out a trade that passes from generation to generation, celebrating traditional and sustainable fishing that unfortunately is being lost. That’s why I think it was received with gratitude.
Tell us the details of this technique
The procedure of this photographic technique is the same as in the year 1860. It entails a meticulous and systematic process like that of a watchmaker, in which each step must be taken care of. It always gives me the feeling of going back in time, when I think that I am following a formula that was invented around 161 years ago.
The exhibition Los Pescadores de La Lonja de Palma is an initiative of Soledad Bescós, promoter of cultural events that has had the support of the Department of Culture of the Palma City Council, the Balearic Islands Port Authority, and the Maritime Museum.