It’s August 25, the last Wednesday of the month. Once again I’m driving towards Bunol, the village made famous by the annual ‘Tomatina’ tomato fight, to cover our summer staple.
The night before I had prepared the equipment: just one camera, a 70-200mm and 17-40mm. In the trunk of my car was 5 gallons of water, spare clothes to change into after the fight, a roll of plastic wrapping and toilet paper to clean the lens. I was accredited for a spot on the town hall balcony, on the second story. The ‘Tomatina’ consists of a crowd of 4,500 people gathering in the village’s narrow main street, and six huge trucks driving through the masses while unloading a total of 275,000 pounds of mature tomatoes. Hundreds of gallons of water are sprayed by the villagers from balconies and windows. The whole event lasts about an hour.
Until the fourth truck passes, the crowd isn’t really red, so I don’t take any pictures for the first 40 minutes. When the action begins, I shoot the last two trucks passing by. People are red, the street is covered by tomato soup and everybody is battling frenetically. Tomatoes are flying everywhere. Finally, the signal that the battle has ended comes and the hard work begins. I store the long lens in a little plastic backpack, wrap the camera and the wide angle lens with plastic. I put the toilet paper in my pocket and after 10 minutes I go down to inspect the remains of the battle.
Although not allowed, some people are still throwing tomatoes, others just rest in the pulp, and the majority are leaving the battlefield. Some villagers start to clean the street and facades.
Time to work: 3 steps on to the street and a XXXXL t-shirt covered with tomatoes hits my head. Some tomatoes are thrown as well. After just a few moments I look as if I have participated in the tomato fight for the entire battle. Parts of the street are covered in eight inches of tomato juice. I move through the mush and shoot the remaining revelers, resting, swimming and doing stupid things in the pulp. Every few minutes I have to clean the lens, but I’m lucky – almost all the pictures are sharp. After 20 minutes, I decide to leave the scene.
It’s a short walk to the car. I shower at the road side, unwrap the camera, find it’s clean and works fine, change into CLEAN clothes and then drive home to edit and send my images. Well, once again I have survived the event. The pictures came out well. It was a good day.