On 7th September 2010 I received an email;
Dear Peter, My name is Lola Mac Dougall.
It was. Landing in Bilbao I meet Johann Rousellot, who is representing France in the show. On the bus to San Sebastian, we discuss the strategies applied to shoot our respective projects. Arriving at the exhibition hosted at the city’s Ernest Lluch Cultural Centre, is a little disappointing, it has the 'some-pictures-on-the-wall-of-a-local-library' kind of feel. The event kicks off with an hour of academic findings before a Q&A with the photographers. I throw a posture of seriousness and nod my head when I think I ought to. My beer-massaged thoughts meander across the mainly female audience. They have more facial hair than I have. I’ve never been in a room with so many women I’ve not fancied before.
On my way back into Bilbao for the night I make a note to get my Getxophoto 2012 submission together. I would like to report of my cultural absorbing of Bilbao night life. Truth is, after the previous days early start, I’m completely wiped and spend the evening in my hotel room with a six-pack and crisp pack, watching rhythmic gymnastics on television. The only Olympic tickets I applied for (and failed to get) was for the flawless beauty of this sport. It has been a passion since upgrading from the marching majorettes and cheerleaders of my youth. The grace, coordination, agility and artistry with ball, ribbon, rope, clubs or hoop of rhythmic gymnastics to me, is God’s own proof.
25th The plan for the trip to northern Spain was to do it on a budget. The flights were paid for and per diems of 400 euros allocated by the exhibition organisers for travel about town and accommodation. My return flight is 22.10, I’m already over budget and have 11 hours to occupy after checking out of my Bilbao hotel. I visit the old town for breakfast, stroll to the bullring, pay homage at the Estadio San Mames (home to Athletic Bilbao), pause for pastries in the park and gawp at the Guggenheim. I check my watch - seven hours until departure. I hit the bars for some Pintxo (Pincho); basically, a tiny sandwich made from what is found left in the fridge - a dollop of mayonnaise, a gherkin tip, an anchovy or prawn. They are served with equally small portions of booze. I try out my Spanglish: "Grande rojo vino, grande blanco vino, grande copa de cava." 11 glasses later, I check my watch. I’m late for my plane.
29th Summer has made a roaring comeback, the mercury touches 29C. I can’t possibly work on a day like this and flip-flop over to the Villiers Terrace. After lunch of beetroot and goats cheese salad with roasted walnuts, I get to work trying to fathom my new phone. I’ve already forgotten to save crucial contacts from the SIM. Checking what’s left, I discover numbers of yesteryear: retired picture editors, defunct magazines, and film processing labs long gone. I begin the cull and stop at H for Hetherington, Tim. There are two numbers. ‘Delete all details?’
A version of this feature first appeared in issue #2 of Hungry Eye magazine, home of the Dench Diary