Among the pines

Artist Feature of Oliver Martin

People have been present in the forests of Catalunya, stretching back to the Palaeolithic era. We can find Neolithic dolmens, megaliths, and petroglyphs amongst the pines. Studies on Iberian Neolithic societies reveal the prominence of males in graphic art and burial practices, suggesting gender inequalities reaching back to this period (Cintas-Peña & García Sanjuán 2019, p.513). Medieval ruins, Gothic towers, and later structures such as Turó d’en Pons, an arabesque-style hunting lodge where wealthy families in the late 19th century would gather, socialise and get close to nature.

Between 2018-2021, I moved from the UK to Catalunya. Cultural differences between countries maintain structural commonalities (Notarp, 2020, p316). However, I became aware of the variances. Culture is the product of society's adaptation to the circumstances, environment, and obligations that society is subject to (Notarp, 2020, p25). Stepping away from my own culture and watching my daughter grow up in an unfamiliar community started a process of personal reflection. It allowed me to see the power behind cultural practices and global influence that pressure children to fit into mythological gendered ideals and the subsequent issues and vulnerabilities that result from this ideology.

Like much of Europe, Catalunya has recently experienced many challenges to its identity. The Catalan pro-independence and Spanish nationalist movements and the influx of displaced people and economic migrants are the most significant (Gobel, Benet-Martinez, Mesquita, Uskul, 2018). Catalunya and Spain are also facing the effects of climate change; in 2022, soaring temperatures resulted in wildfires that destroyed 286 hectares of land (Sönnichsen, 2022).

The work is a photographic collaboration with the local teenage boys within the forest and amongst the ruins of the past. In their period of transformation from boy to man, the young men reflect on their identity and their place in the world. The ever-present battle between the natural and the artificial, history and contemporary culture, the freedom of the local environment, and the technological present hang over them like the needles of the pines. The space is transformed into a ritualizing theatre, a place for them to escape, hang out and play out life’s dramaturgy.


Cintas-Peña, M., & García Sanjuán, L. (2019). ‘Gender Inequalities in Neolithic Iberia: A Multi-Proxy Approach’, European Journal of Archaeology, 22(4), pp. 499-522.

Gobel, M, S. Benet-Martinez, V. Mesquita, B. Uskul, A, K. (2018) ‘Europe’s Culture(s): Negotiating Cultural Meanings, Values, and Identities in the European Context’, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 49(6), pp.858-867.

Notarp, U. (2020). Cultural Differences in Concepts of Life and Partnership a Comparative Study on Lifestyles in Europe. Prague: Charles University.

Sönnichsen, N. (2022). Statista. Available here

(Accessed 1 September 2022).

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