CNN Photos

The art of bullfighting

In photographer Aitor Lara’s home country of Spain, the art of bullfighting bleeds into the culture.

“Bullfighting is not a sport, it is an art,” he said in Spanish. “It is an art with an aesthetic content, and it contains a system of beliefs and has a particular language whose metaphors serve and are used by the Spanish in everyday life.”

For example, flamenco songs often mention bullfighting.

Lara has watched bullfights on TV with his grandfather, who is a loyal follower, since he was young. Still, seeing it for the first time in person, he was overwhelmed with emotions.

“I could feel the force of the beast, of the bull, and the danger,” Lara said. “It’s a mix between the wild and culture.”

The man almost always kills the beast, but the fight is only over when the bull is on the ground with a sword through its body.

“You can feel the art, and you can feel the bull is dying,” he said. “It’s very heavy, and there are a lot of opposite feelings.”

Lara’s photos don’t focus on the actual fight as images in a newspaper might. He uses a small format camera with a shorter lens to capture the people and culture within the ring.

“It’s more about the stories in the bullring of the fighters and workers,” he said.

Lara shot within the ring of games in Seville and Ronda, where some of the most important matches take place at spring and summer festivals, he said. Bullfighting is an ancient part of the Spanish culture, and people of all classes and ideologies gather to watch.

The bullfighters get along but also compete with each other.

“There was respect, friendship, admiration, and yet a competitive relationship to see who does it better,” Lara said.

Some of the fighters are known worldwide and are almost treated like gods, he said. Famous designers like Armani design their outfits they wear in the ring.

As he puts it in his project statement, it’s a large part of Spanish culture and generally draws two different viewpoints.

“While some view it as generating culture and meaning, for others it raises questions about ethics, the human condition and the use of a model which justifies a bull being killed for public entertainment.”

- Lauren Russell, CNN