Lara Santaella Tells an Important Story on the Streets of Madrid

For more stories like this, please subscribe to The Phoblographer.

Hello. My name is Lara Santaella, and I’m a clinically depressed 39 years old trans woman. I don’t know if you’ve heard of something called shutter therapy. Still, one of the main reasons I got into photography, six years ago —five, if we don’t count the pandemic— was to make me remember there were beautiful things and beautiful people out there in the world to live for. If at all possible, share my images with other people so they could feel the same even for half a hot minute.

Want to be featured on our website? Here’s how.

So far, this has been the main driving force behind my work. I think I have succeeded at least a little, be with my humble Nikon D3400 —favoring my 55–200 lens— or my powerful Sony A7RIII —favoring a 24–105mm f4 lens, which despite its considerable weight, it’s the one I’m always carrying by my side.

Nikon D3400, 50mm lens. Shot inside an old-timer bar in Seville, Spain.

Nikon D3400, kit lens. Shot in Plaza de España, Sevilla, while a band of buskers regal some tourists with their art.

But sometimes, as much as it pains me to admit, there’s no apparent beauty. There’s sadness. And rage. And fury. All kinds of emotions which, yes, have their own kind of beauty, especially when viewed through the lens of time and pared-down loss with its edges rounded.

This was one of those times.

Seven days ago, on the 3rd of July, a young man was beaten to death in Spain for his sexual orientation. The very next day, a small group of LGBTI people called up for a gathering of people in Madrid, the capital of Spain, to read a small manifesto and mourn for his life, cut too short and in such a vicious manner.

The call for a gathering went beyond any expected result, and there were protests all over the country, all at the same hour, and all of them presumably filled up with the same rage, sadness, and loss.

I was at the Madrid protest, and here are some of the pictures I shot, every last one of them with my current Sony A7RIII and a 24–105mm f4 lens.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m both visibly trans and disabled. Once I saw the ever-present police force starting to gear up with riot accouterments (helmets, batons, shields), I got ready to vamoose. I can barely run after the bus without my knee giving up. Running from the cops? No, thank you.

As it is, some of my fellow photographers got hurt: one 37-year-old girl got an enormous welt on her thigh from a baton hit, and another photographer got hit with teargas in his eyes.

And precisely because of the violent reaction of the authorities at the end of our peaceful march, we’re holding nationwide protests on Sunday the 11th (tomorrow as I write this).

I will be there, camera in hand.

A young man with the newest rainbow flag painted across his face claps, welcoming the activists who called up for the first gathering.

A young man holds up a cardboard banner with the words, “Mom, they killed me for being gay.”

A heavily tattooed man holds his fist up with a small flag tied to his wrist. Thanks to the wind, his flag coincidentally aligns with a bigger flag someone else was waving.

A young girl screams consigns and slogans on her megaphone. Even with the man in the foreground obscuring half her face, you can see the anguish in her eyes: the rage and the sadness battling to go out.

Abraham, one of the organizers, screams what everyone needed to hear: this is not a time for sadness. This is a time for rage. No one cares about us. It’s time we cared about each other.

A young non-binary person records the manifesto on their phone, using their arm as a tripod. We can see their eyes almost dammed up with tears.

The manifesto ends, and we all erupt in slogans, cries, and tears, starting with the organizers. I don’t know how I managed to hide/ignore the tears long enough to shoot pictures, but… I did.

A young woman hoists a small trans flag. As a trans woman myself, these shots usually make their way into my camera, whether I notice or not.

A fellow photographer stands on high to aim for a better view and angle. Personally, I like to stand closer to the ground because of certain disabilities.

A young man hoists a banner which can be translated as “hate words precede hate crimes,” which, as we all know, is sadly true.

The flag travels down Gran Via. People were mostly masked (yes, we know about the pandemic), but there wasn’t just enough space to hold all the enraged ones.

A young girl attends the protests and does her part even with one of her arms cast up. There was no excuse. None at all.

Silent clapping. Someone asked for it, we obliged.

Against their hate, our love. Eventhough most of us despise the motto “love is love” or its Madrid counterpart “Love who you love, Madrid loves you,” love is still a powerful emotion and something we can use.

You can reach Lara Santaella on Instagram, Twitter, or at my print store, hosted graciously by Picfair.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.