Santa Cruz das Ribeiras is located in Pico Island, archipelago of the Azores. Every year, during Shrove Monday afternoon, a group of inhabitants, mainly young people, get together to fight a peculiar battle: they throw flour to each other while they go through the main streets of the village. Almost every one protects their eyes with glasses, because the flour is thrown with considerable force and without any warning. I had to protect myself with swimming goggles. Despite that, some flour got into my eyes. I also protected my camera, to avoid considerable damage.
The participants are received in the homes of the inhabitants, who serve them food and drink. I tried to find out why they throw flour, but nobody could answer me. Apparently, over the years, people have forgotten why they do it. It is known, however, that in the old days boys used the occasion to propose to girls.
This series was taken in 2008 and 2009. The first year I shot on an Olympus OM-4 Ti, fitted with a Zuiko 35 mm/2.8. But, as I mentioned above, the flour is thrown very hard and it is risky to use such an expensive camera because it can get damaged, although it was protected with a plastic rain sleeve. So the second year I shot on a Nikon L35AW compact underwater camera.
Until today, I have always shot on black and white film. In fact, I have never used a digital camera. My lenses are always fitted with a medium yellow filter. Since the Nikon lens has no filter thread, I solved the problem by taping a 49 mm diameter filter with black tape to the front of the lens. This method worked perfectly and never interfered with the autofocus. The drawback of using the Nikon was that the exposure is entirely automatic. On the other hand, the autofocus, in a situation where you need to react quickly, proved to be very useful. This was the only autofocus camera I have used to date.
In both cases, the cameras were loaded with Ilford HP5+ film, which I developed at home. The developer was the E-76, prepared by me, an eco-friendly alternative to D-76, which uses vitamin C instead of hydroquinone. The formula can be found on the Internet.
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10 thoughts on “The Flour Battle”
Beautiful photos, gritty in just the right way 🙂
Thank you Joseph.
I love this story! The photos put us in the middle of the ‘war’ but thankfully there are no calls for a medivac chopper! I’m sincerely curious; what is it like getting photo supplies and ancillary materials where you live?
Thank you very much for the nice comment.
Although there are no calls for a medivac chopper, I can assure you that three days after the battle I was still getting flour out of my eyes, despite being protected with swimming goggles.
Although the Azores is a remote region of the European Union, it has never been easier to buy film, paper and chemicals, thanks to the Internet. I have to wait 1-3 weeks, but it is much easier than 20-30 years ago. We have daily air connections with Portugal mainland and two weekly cargo ship connections.
Thank you! What a wonderful place to be a photographer!
This reminds me of the experience of eating beignets at the Café du Monde in New Orleans. 🙂 It’s advisable to sit upwind of your beignets otherwise you will be covered with confectioner’s sugar. Seriously, though, this is a nice set of photos, and the choice of using an underwater camera seems like a good solution.
Thank you Brad.
Very nice, right in the middle of things1
I shot a tomato fight once…(same kind of thing, hundreds of people, thousands of tomatoes) Used a little NEX 5 digital camera in an underwater case. It fared better than I did 🙂
It must have been a lot of fun.