On a Roll: Rafael Gonzalez Finds Subtle Beauty on the Streets of Barcelona

Between Gaudi’s dizzying architectural creativity and the bliss-inducing turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea, the city of Barcelona is widely considered to be one of the great beauties of the world, captured on film and in photos hundreds of times over. The city’s bold colors and staggeringly unique architecture serves as a muse for many creatives, yet photographer Rafael Gonzalez is interested in documenting a lesser known side of the famous locale. The Panama City-based photographer, skateboarder, and traveler uses black and white film to highlight the gritty complexity and subtle beauty of urban life in the Spanish city.

Eschewing the digital format for the honesty, grainy textures, and happy accidents of analog film, his unassuming images creep up on you, encouraging the viewer to see everyday scenes and inconspicuous architecture in a soft new light. Steeped in dramatic shadows and moody lighting, Gonzalez’s photos are appreciative and reflective, a visual love letter to the beauty that is all around us and rarely noticed: trees casting long shadows on the sides of buildings, wet laundry hanging from balconies, the satisfying symmetry of a traffic intersection from above.

He documents the streets of Barcelona without flash or fanfare – it could almost be any bustling metropolis in the world – and plays with light and texture, resulting in images that embrace and honor the typically ignored, reverently bringing the background to the forefront of his photos. Using unusual angles and compositions to re-examine ordinary views from a fresh perspective, his images are equal parts comforting and surprising, transforming well-worn city streets into empty landscapes that are quietly breathtaking.

His work also evokes a vivid sense of movement, as if you are exploring the gritty heart of the city on foot or skateboard, taking in quick flashes of beauty and inspiration as you glide past. Gonzalez’s shots serve as a much-needed reminder to look up from our phones, to pay attention, to look a little bit closer at our surroundings and find the sweet and subtle beauty filtering through our everyday lives.

Explore more of Rafael Gonzalez’s work here.

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