Sarah Pink
Lecturer, (Sociology) Department of Social Sciences Loughborough University, UK.


The Bullfighter's Braid

Cristina Sanchez was a professional Spanish bullfighter from 1996-1999. I photographed her at a novice performance in Valdemorillo during my fieldwork about 'Women and Bullfighting'. The Bullfighter's Braid is a challenging image. In the same way that women performers disturb the 'traditional' masculine bullfight, it places a woman in a frame usually occupied by a man, exchanging his 'traditional' thin, coiled, braid for a long feminine highlighted blonde plait. However my informants enjoyed the image aesthetically, they felt it was 'natural' rather than 'constructed'. Some sought to feminise the braid as 'the prettiest braid in the bullfight', thus neutralising its threat to the masculine bullfight by making it out of place. It appealed both to those who wished to create a space for a woman's body in a masculine bullfight and to the opponents of women performers. Whatever its attraction, The Bullfighter's Braid was popular and was implicated in how my identity was constituted during fieldwork, as a photographer. It was published locally in Cordoba, where I lived, in the press and on television to advertise a forthcoming Lecture, it won a regional journalistic photography competition and I was interviewed on the radio about my photography and my research. The Bullfighter's Braid was part of my journey from student to 'expert', and embodied my own ambiguous participation in local discourses on gender and tradition. Through it I had started to produce the very visual culture of the bullfight that I was researching.