This is the oldest picture I have taken on this website. It was taken on 110 film in 1987. A colleague at work was attending a film class and was asking around for pictures he could use in class.
I had visited Ávila whilst in Madrid as a guest of a friend who had moved out there and this was the best shot I could find. I was amazed by what he did with it. He cropped it, converted it to monochrome and added some additional grain. At the time I just took snapshots, so this was a revelation to me. I consider this my first decent picture and my first step into black and white photography – a medium I have come to love. I still like the image; the absence of anything else in frame, the slightly brooding sky, the way the walls stretch off into the distance and of course the subject itself, the mighty, pristine walls are what make the picture work.
Ávila, the ‘City of Saints and Stones, was founded in the 11th century to protect the Spanish territories from the Moors. It is the capital of the province of the same name in Castile and León in North West Spain, 110 km from Madrid and separated from the capital by the Guadarrama mountain chains. It is 74 km from Segovia. At 1,126 meters above sea level, it is the highest provincial capital in Spain and sits on the top of a rocky outcrop in the midst of a barren, stone covered plain.
The medieval walls were built between the 11th-14th centuries and are astonishingly well preserved and the most complete fortifications in Spain. They stretch for 2.5km, stand an average of 12 metres in height, enclose area is 31 hectares (77 acres) and have 9 gates. The Old Town of Ávila has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, largely due to the walls which are its most impressive monument but also for its 12th Century cathedral and Romanesque churches. I want to go back and shoot Ávila at night, as it is beautifully illuminated – apparently it is the largest fully illuminated monument in the world.