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The kiss

A worker on strike in Cervera (Catalonia), locked down into the factory, kissed her partner through the gate

A worker in Cervera (Catalonia) kisses her partner while being on strike in the factory in protest at her closure in 2002. © Albert González Farran
A worker in Cervera (Catalonia) kisses her partner while being on strike in the factory in protest at her closure in 2002. © Albert González Farran

Life is full of photographs passing by. Only a tiny part can end up in the camera. The rest, they barely remain on the retina. In the end, one realizes there are more lost photos than captured. But I guess here lies the magic of photography, as if it was a hunt. In 2002, I hunted a kiss.

There are many kisses in the history of art. From the famous Rodin’s kiss, to those by Eduard Munch, Toulousse Lautrec, Gustav Klimt and, even, one from Picasso. And obviously in photojournalism there are also good samples, such as the popular (and controversial) kiss at Times Square, of a sailor who celebrated the end of World War II raiding a nurse. Or the fraternal kiss in 1979 between the socialist leaders Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev during the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the German Democratic Republic.

In 2002, I was so naive that I though I had captured a unique kiss. A fleeting instant that lasted one-tenth of a second between a grid that represented the fight against the economic system and labour precariousness. In short, it was a message of love against injustice. There was a worker from Lear, a company that employed more than a thousand workers in Cervera (Catalonia) and announced its undeniable closure. The company decided to transfer all the activity to Eastern Europe, where salaries are lower.

The worker in question, like the rest of her colleagues, had been closed into the factory premises to pressure the board and avoid a mass dismissal. Or, at least, to get a fair compensation.

While the hours passed in that factory, a young mechanic appeared on the other side of the fence. He was the partner of that girl and came to greet her. In a few seconds, they looked at each other, they exchange few words and they ended up kissing lips. And I was with the camera ready at the right time and in the right place. As a photojournalist, I fully enjoyed capturing that moment. I hunted a great kiss.

But time after this personal satisfaction, I noticed that many years ago someone else had made a nearly identical picture. Two Jewish women kissed before being deported from a Nazi ghetto in Poland to the extermination camps. They also kissed through a grid, very similar to that one in Cervera. It happened in 1940 and the shot was taken by Mendel Grossman, another Jew, also among the deportees, who died five years later, exhausted and ill in another Nazi camp.

When realizing this similarity, I came to the conclusion that nowadays almost everything is done in photography. There is only room for variations. But almost nothing for discoveries. Everything is more than invented.

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