urat Sinici describes himself as having a natural fascination with people, and a curiosity about their lives, seeking out and documenting encounters during his time spent travelling. While on holiday in Seville, a chance encounter with a man riding a horse (who was initially his intended subject) led him to a farm where he met Mercedes, the feature of this series.
Mercedes, who is sixteen, demonstrated an intriguing strength of character and confidence for someone her age, which is what made her such an engaging subject for Murat. It was her passion for horses and riding, evocative of a deeply rooted Spanish cultural tradition, which led him to photograph her. Since her childhood, as far back as she could remember, Mercedes has been involved with the care of her family horses, and with this came her proclivity for customary Spanish dress. At the festivals and exhibitions that are entrenched in Andalucían history, she typically wears the Traje de Corto, the traditional riding suit of the region: originally designed to be worn by men when cattle herding, it remains a prevalent costume at cultural events.
The Seville Fair, which Mercedes attends with her family every year, has a 170-year history rooted in the cattle trade, yet over time it developed into the festival atmosphere it is renowned for today. As has been the tradition in her family, Mercedes attends either on horseback, adorned in her bespoke, handcrafted Traje de Corto, or wearing the Traje de Flamenca – the flamenco dress that remains ingrained in the cultural and historical tradition of the region. The hat (Sombrero de ala Ancha) that she wears so proudly in this series is a family heirloom, cared for and handed-down from generation to generation: a symbol of the family’s connection to their heritage.
She described to Murat her love for the festival music (she plays the Spanish and electric guitar herself and sings at concerts), for the food, the dancing, and her youthful enjoyment of the fairground rides that are found on the fiendishly named ‘Hell Street’. The festival is a place where the community comes together: seven to seventy-year olds indulging in their local customs, adorned in decorative attire and accompanied by their horses.
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Murat fondly recounts his conversations with Mercedes and her family whilst shooting this series: her exuberance was palpable as she spoke about her experiences growing up in the south of Spain, about her love of art and music, the fact she wants to study law in the future. Ultimately, however, it was her buzzing enthusiasm for her horses, that she cared for and spoke about the most, which engaged him with her personal story: the archetype of an Andalucían teenager, caught in the midst of her rich cultural heritage and her hopes for the future.