Photographers' Blog

Documenting a graphic goring

Pamplona, Spain

By Susana Vera

There are two types of bull run photographers, those who happen to be where the gorings take place and those who don’t. I used to belong to the second group, but that changed on July 12 when a 31-year-old man from Castellon, eastern Spain, was gored three times almost underneath the balcony where I was shooting from during Pamplona’s world-famous San Fermin festival.

I had slept pretty badly the previous night. I never get much sleep throughout the festival anyhow, because I end up going to bed late and waking up very early to grab a spot along the route of the bull run. There are tons of photographers, both local and foreign, at every post of the fence and it’s not easy to find a good place after 6.30 a.m. even if the bull run doesn’t start for another 90 minutes. Luckily that day I was in no hurry, though. I had arranged with my cousin Amalia to shoot the running of the bulls from my uncle’s dentist clinic. Its highly coveted balconies face Estafeta street, a prime spot to see the runners sprint alongside the bulls during the morning “encierro”, which takes place at 8 a.m. every day from July 7th until July 14th.

I was born in Pamplona and even though I moved away at the age of 22, most of my family still reside there. My mother was born and raised in the same building where her father had his dental practice and where my uncle has his nowadays. They both grew up watching the bull runs from the same balcony from which I took the photo of Diego Miralles getting gored by an El Pilar fighting bull named “Langostero”. I have been going to that very same balcony once every San Fermin festival since 2005, when I first started photographing the running of the bulls, but I had never documented such a terrifying moment before.

That morning my blood froze in my veins as I witnessed for a whole minute how “Langostero” repeatedly charged at Diego Miralles, goring him three times, in his groin and legs. I never thought sixty seconds could feel so long. I kept on taking photos, trying to stay focused and still as the drama unfolded in front of my camera. For a while I heard nothing, I’m not sure if my brain just blocked the noise off or people went mute for a few seconds. And then, all of a sudden, I heard screams and the sobbing of a young girl that had come to the balcony with her family to watch the bull run. The tears of a middle-aged woman followed. I didn’t put the camera down until I saw another runner help Diego Miralles get through the fence to receive medical treatment. And then I started shaking. I was in shock, like everyone else. I told the young girl not to worry, that he was going to be all right, but the truth is that I didn’t know. No one knew.

I regained my composure and left my uncle’s clinic. I took photos of Diego Miralles being taken away to the hospital and headed to my parents’ to send the pictures. Editing them was difficult, the photos were brutal, hard to look at. All of a sudden everything was painfully real, too real. The thought of his family crossed my mind. How would they react upon seeing their loved one with a bull’s horn tearing into him repeatedly? It turns out they had been watching the bull run live on TV and were already driving from their hometown in Castellon to Pamplona, fearing for his life.

Photographer vs. wild cow

By Joseba Etxaburu

I’m a fireman and photo stringer for Reuters. I have been coming to the San Fermin festival for the past 12 years.

Every year I try to find new images and new ways to tell the stories we see. One of the events I usually cover is the release of wild cows into the bullring following the running of the bulls. A young cow chases revelers around knocking them down and occasionally tossing them.

SLIDESHOW: RUNNING OF THE BULLS

Looking for a different angle, for a while I have been going into the ring with a wide angle lens – getting as close to the action as possible while keeping an eye on the cow, which is very fast and often pretty bad tempered. On Thursday, I hadn’t really planned to go into the ring but Reuters photographer Susana Vera said she wanted to shoot the action with a long lens. I thought it wasn’t worth both of us doing the same type of pictures. So I went in.

Testing angels at the Pamplona bull run

By Vincent West

Yes, the fish are dead, and they are obviously painted, thus objects of aesthetic contemplation.
- Alberto Rey

Runners lead a Jandilla fighting bull into the bullring during the last running of the bulls of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona July 14, 2010.  REUTERS/Joseba Etxaburu

That may or may not be the sort of thing that springs to mind when you are lying in bed at 3.30am, sweating, and imagining ways to chop the cable of the sound system that sends throbbing bass pulses through the walls of the hotel. One thing is certain however; you will be wondering and worrying about how today’s “encierro” will turn out. It’s why we are here. Ever since Hemingway’s Bill Gorton declared “These basques are swell people”, increasing numbers of unwary visitors have flocked to Pamplona to see whether or not the angels are on their side. They test it every morning at eight o’clock, from the seventh to the fourteenth of July.

Jandilla fighting bulls run past a runner at Estafeta corner during the ninth running of the bulls of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona July 14, 2010.   REUTERS/Vincent West

The “we” in question are four photographers (there used to be more but you know how it is). Eloy Alonso, cider and civil war expert, an excellent photographer with a talent for polemic, Susana Vera, by far the most responsible of the group with a sharp eye for beautiful and creative pictures, Joseba Etxaburu, a lucky, happy, firefighter and motorbiker whose record for dramatic, often gory and distinctive images of the San Fermin festival is renowned and Vincent West, about whom perhaps the least said the better.