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"En Plein Soleil"

Hiro Matsuoka

With an air of proud self-confidence, Claus named our rooftop flat "El Palomar“. It belonged to our friend Ines and was a kind of open house, where her artist friends came to stay for a few weeks or months, and then went off again. So, in a sense, the name was appropriate, although it really came from the old disused dovecote built on the terrace next to the flat. In the summer of 2003, I stayed there with Claus, who had taken me to Barcelona for the first time.

There are countless stories from this summer, mostly about the things around El Palomar, but one of my favorite memories was probably of the narrow stairways leading to this flat. The building had six or, perhaps, seven storeys, the Spanish way of counting the floors was somewhat confusing, but it was a rather high building in the neighbourhood of El Born.

To the street there was a heavy wooden door with a small, thick glass window for the light. The door made an incredibly loud bang as it closed, which I could hear even a few streets away. It was so loud that I thought it would soon break the glass or fall apart, but that never happened. After this door, I had to go up the stairs, no lift.

The staircases were so narrow that only a single person could fit, and so high that the light would go off at least once or twice before I reached my floor. The higher the level, the smaller the steps; on the uppermost part I had to be careful to place my whole weight on the toes to balance myself. With a 10 litre water canister in one hand and a grocery bag in the other, it was not the easiest of climbs. Going down with all the photo equipment was not simple, either. Nevertheless, the view from our terrace over the roofs of Barcelona was the reward for this crippling effort.

Only two years later, though, at the height of the real estate boom in Spain, Ines made up her mind to sell her flat. There was nothing we could do. We were going to lose El Palomar. So we decided to return, to be there for the last time. Just before we had to leave the flat forever, I made these pinhole exposures with a tin can camera, going up and down the stairs. 

— View from the window of El Palomar, 2005

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