Photo by Rory Ryder
Street cleaner with broom
British entrepreneur Rory Ryder talks about his series of photos featuring female Barcelona road sweepers, which are due to be shown in an exhibition in the new year, and how the city has inspired him.
What is a Barcelona entrepreneur? To be a successful Barcelona entrepreneur you must help to re-create Barcelona through your own ideas and activities, whilst at the same time being part of Barcelona society through your contributions. You have to think to yourself: what can I give back to the people? What can I give back to the city?
You have dedicated your language-learning books to Barcelona, what effect has the city had on you? Well, I'd never seen a book dedicated to Barcelona and I thought if there is any reason that this [the series of books] is here, it's because I was inspired by the language, the people and the learning.
What can you tell me about your most recent project? What inspired you to take pictures of road sweepers? When I arrived in Barcelona in 2003, I was immediately struck by the workers cleaning the streets. They looked incredible in their green and yellow outfits against the backdrop of Barcelona's blue skies and architecture. Also they seemed to create their own unique dress styles using effectively the same outfit—for me that is true fashion!
Why does your project focus on female roadsweepers? Well to be honest they are much sexier! It's amazing how they can adapt their outfits to create a new dimension—I don't think a guy can do that; the girls just look more appealing. The kind of look we wanted to show was of these strong, assertive women. I've never seen any other profession stand out so much. It really shows how different Barcelona is, you would never find that in England or America or any other country. It's something unique to Barcelona; it makes it so special. I felt an internal desire to capture that sentiment, the road sweepers had to be done.
Is photography a hobby for you or something that you intend to pursue as a profession? I like photography but it's not my thing, to be honest. The road sweepers is about people, about Barcelona. I wouldn't want people to see it as art as such. The project was financed by my own company and we paid volunteers; any profit goes back to the road sweeper girls. I just wanted to give something back to Barcelona.
How many pictures did you take for this project? We have about 30 or 40 pictures for the exhibition but we took hundreds at various locations across the city.
What do you hope to achieve through your work? I would hope that it inspires people to do more projects that help to re-create Barcelona, to help people feel like they are more a part of Barcelona. You can do art and creative things that aren't designed for profit, it's nice to be able to give something back to the city.
Do you have any plans for future projects? I would like to turn some of the photographs into calendars and postcards to raise awareness. If we can see other projects out there which are interesting and fit the company then I would be happy to put resources into it. There is no point in investing in something that you are not passionate about.
Barcelona is...an entrepreneurial paradise! It's got so many possibilities, not just for business but for ways to change Barcelona as a society, socially. It's a shame that we have all these old bureaucratic systems in place that really prevent young people today from starting their own business and developing ideas that could radically change Barcelona for the better.
I never miss...the opportunity to think outside the box.
Places to go with friends...Federal Cafe (Calle del Parlamento de Cataluña, 39) has now set the gold standard for Barcelona cafe culture, it is the perfect way to start the day.
Rory Ryder works exclusively with governments and international educational publishers, distributors and television networks to provide multimedia language-learning resources using fun, graphical designs and the latest technology. His most recent innovation, Learnbots, is aimed at bridging cultural divides and is an online software programme or app which can be downloaded for free, designed to learn verbs of many languages across the world.