Photographers' Blog

France’s boy bullfighters

Nimes, south of France

By Jean-Paul Pelissier

Ask a young boy what he wants to be when he gets older and the reply is the usual “a fireman, soccer player, doctor or astronaut”. However, ask two young boys from southern France, Solal, aged 12 and Nimo, aged 10, and you’ll hear, “a bullfighter”.

At the start of the story, bullfighting was familiar to me, but full of unknowns. Familiar because living in southern France, the traditional Ferias of Nimes and Arles are well-known yearly popular festivals, attracting revellers for two or three days to the Roman arenas and parades with many dressed in local costumes. On occasion I attended bullfights with friends, followed by partying in the streets at the outdoor bars or “bodegas”.

Following the two boys I learned the language of the bullfighter, mostly Spanish in origin, that the “aficionados”, the dedicated fans use. The studied cape movements by the toreador, and the charges by the fighting bull, make for a charged confrontation between man and animal where spectators react with animated emotions.

Through the eyes of Solal and Nino, I discovered their world and the passion they feel for bullfighting. The boys dream of becoming bullfighters, the day when they are professional toreadors. Still attending class in French public school, their dreams are about facing the bull in the arena. While other boys have posters of their favorite music group or football players, the walls of their bedrooms are decorated with posters of famous toreadors or bulls’ horns.

I watched the two boys as they trained in small arenas, repeating gestures to execute the perfect “muleta pass” or thrusting “banderillas”, training with facsimile bulls on a bicycle. I see them preparing for “becerradas,” practice bullfights with calves where the animal is not harmed. The boys, apprentice toreadors, imitate the glorious actions of their idols, which leads me to think that perhaps in a few years, if their passion continues and if their dreams become reality, they will participate in their “alternative”, the ceremony where the “novillero” becomes a true “matador de toro”.

A bloody summer

Mexico City, Mexico

By Edgard Garrido

The truth is that there are lots of viewpoints, myths, interests, ignorance and bigotry when it comes to bullfighting. It’s undeniable – beyond being against or for it – that bullfights are a historical and cultural event, and a reality that I couldn’t ignore as a photographer in Mexico.  During a month this past Mexican summer I photographed bullfights, ones that in the end were not particularly bloody for the toreros but certainly were for the bulls and, I have to admit, for my emotions as well.

Stepping into the world of toreros was easy and difficult at the same time. Easy because the people are friendly, and difficult because it was, and still is, an unfamiliar world to me.

I went to the Plaza Mexico, the largest bull ring in the world, to get permission to photograph a bullfight. Indoors there were photographs, sculptures, capes, muletas, and swords, and outside there was the arena. Everywhere was the smell of animals. On the day of my first bullfight I found myself standing in a hallway in front of a horse dressed in yellow padding, banderilleros, matadors and monosabios (workers who pick up the dead bulls).

Women take the bull by the horns

By Jose Manuel Ribeiro

“Hey, sports fans, think you’re tough? Then try out a growing Portuguese pastime that is like playing rugby with a runaway refrigerator. It’s bull tackling, and nearly 1,000 enthusiasts, or “forcados,” from all walks of life love to jump into the ring for a head-on collision with a maddened bull. A mixture of sport, spectacle, high testosterone machismo, male bonding and, some say, art, the rough-and-tumble event is as unique to Portugal as port wine or codfish ice cream,” Reuters Lisbon chief correspondent Ian Simpson wrote in August 2005.

At the time, if anyone mentioned the notion of women trying out to be a “forcado” you would have said they were dreaming or had no idea of the inner workings of the Portuguese bullfighting world.

But six years later it is no longer a dream as a group of young and graceful women tackle the bulls in central Portugal.

Prime position for a bullfight

by Jon Nazca

Spanish banderiller Pedro Muriel is gored by a bull during a bullfight at the Malagueta bullring in Malaga August 22, 2010. Banderillers are bullfighter's assistants whose role is to weaken the bull's massive neck and shoulder muscles using harpoon pointed sticks known as banderillas (little flags). Muriel was gored in the right thigh but his wound is not serious, said his manager Ignacio Gonzalez to the magazine Mundotoro. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

It’s Sunday, and the last bullfight of the week.  People from Malaga are exhausted from so many days of fiesta and bulls. There isn’t much traffic around the bullring so I get there earlier than other days.

The temperature is a suffocating heat and not too many people are there yet, only a few brave souls sitting in the stands waiting for the bullfight.

I take my time, I’m a little more relaxed than other days, and try and take some pictures of people in the stands.  My attention is directed at three women, who appear to be from another region.  An old man waits, looking impatiently at his watch.  I direct my attention to him, as he sits surrounded by so many numbers painted on the stands.