Professional Photographer

Profile : Manny Rocca
Photographer & Photojournalist

Manny Rocca Espana

As an American-abroad Manny Rocca has always
had a foot on both sides of the Atlantic.

Born in Seville in 1957 to Spanish parents, Manny spent his formative years in Sevilla (his mother’s home town) when his parents moved back to Spain but in his late teens, with the advantage of dual citizenship, he returned to the USA.

In 1980 he took up a position with The Washington Post, and later The Washington Times. It was under the auspices of these prestigious newspapers that he was able to develop and broaden his photojournalistic and camera skills. Here, too, he learnt all the aspects of the art and production of pre-digital photography. I note on viewing his considerable body of work, however, that he has clearly retained an enduring affection for the rich culture of Spain: in particular, Sevilla and the region of Andalucia.

Manny’s Press Pass gave him access to some of the most prestigious political and social events of the era, allowing him to capture many significant figures in history. At the height of his career he returned to Spain with his wife, also a native of Sevilla, and has continued his passion for photography sometimes taking employment as a contract photographer, but largely freelancing.

Subsequently, and with his career now spanning nearly four decades, much of his work has collected accolades on both sides of the Atlantic with its subject matter being photographed in diverse locations, such as Europe, the USA, North Africa and the Middle East.

Typical of pre-digital photographic artists his work is distinctive, his style unique. If it is not capturing a moment in history, it is capturing human emotion, evoking the human condition in its many forms. Another area of interest for him has been the changes that Spain has undergone since the days of its Dictator, Franco, and the country’s subsequent rush to modernisation.

Much of his contract work while in Spain has been with its Olive and Wine Industry. His distinctive photographs capture the produce, production and humanity that combine to support these major, historic Spanish industries and have won him many awards. His most recent publication is El Reino del Olivo (The Realm of the Olive), a collaboration with the renown Spanish poet Hector L. Baz Reyes. This beautifully evocative example of his work was sponsored by the Caja Rural de Jaén.

Yet another of his cultural (photographic) interests is the contentious, yet colourful and dramatic art of Bullfighting, while the many splendidly colourful religious and local cultural festivals of Spain provide abundant material for his photographic palette. His photos have appeared in many print media, such as: The Daily News-Newspaper, The Nation Newspaper, Las Americas, People Magazine, Insight Magazine, Cambio-16 Magazine, Tiempo Magazine, Hello Magazine, European Magazine, Boston Globe Newspaper, The Washingtonian, Bunte Magazine, Regardie’s Magazine, Gong Verlag, Hispanic Magazine, Dossier Magazine, Where Magazine, Guitar Review, Andalucia Economica, Guitarrista Magazine, JondoWeb, La Razón, Revista Guitarrista, Revista Paradores, El Semanal and more.

While now reaching retirement age, his enthusiasm for the art has not diminished and he has embraced the age of modern digital photography. But while photography was his first love, it never prevented him from taking up other arts. Perhaps following in his mother’s footsteps (a professional Flamenco dancer), he has an unbridled enthusiasm for Flamenco. He became both a highly accomplished guitarist and singer of that form of music and has performed professionally in many European countries and in the USA. This also opened doors for him photographically, enabling him to capture the art of leading flamenco artists on film.

Manny Rocca’s career has certainly been colourful, and a lot of that is reflected in the body of his work.

Author: J Cedric Watkins
June 2016 - Zamoa Productions

Sevilla and Algeciras

14th July 2015

It IS the heat…..

Sevilla – Sultry, Sedate and Seductive
It is indeed a grand city. Beautiful regal architecture (and an eye-popping modern one with the revealed archaeological dig at its footing), wonderful old bars, ancient alleys, a slow and broad river (the Guadalquivir), a night-life of great repute which we never manage to stay up for (we did, though, manage a couple of post-midnight nights), a great regional cuisine (better in the back streets and suburbs), loads of tour groups, and you’d never complain about the cold.

Seville Triana Spain

Historical Seville Spain

Geeeez – it is hot! We walk slowly these days. 44 degrees in Sevilla most days with no let up. No wonder they don’t do much activity until the late evening. I haven’t really adjusted to the Spanish eating and siesta routine; I haven’t had much appetite for luncheon meals so by mutual agreement we have ended up just starting our day with café con leche and a toasted bun with olive oil and mashed tomato (that, at least, is Spanish) and often a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. For the rest of the day our food and beverage intake is all out of kilter with their routine but, I assure you, immensely satisfying.

The perfect ice coffee
Iced coffee in Seville

My Spanish cousin, Manny was once again a boon with his ability to direct us into fabulous local eating and drinking places and is a mine of information about Spain and Sevilla in particular. He is a very talented, professional photographer but Spain is a particularly difficult country to work in, especially in that field at present and his impoverished state and necessity to continue with some photography and book projects precluded our going on any side trips this time. So, we limited our stay to four nights. However, my nephew Thomas (son of brother Tom) and his partner Gabby arrived to make family connections on the second day and we were able to introduce them, permitting Manny to ably demonstrate his aforementioned expertise and knowledge. They enjoyed their visit and it was a pleasure for us to connect with Thomas again and to meet his partner.

Street art Sevilla
Seville Street Art Seville

From here we can see the rock of Gibraltar just across the Bay. We arrived to the same oppressive humidity and heat. The reason for this weather is the hot wind that blows over, across the Straits of Gibraltar (and, indeed, across all the Mediterranean) from North Africa’s Sahara Desert. In Spain this wind is called The Levant, in France – perhaps more famously – it is called Le Mistral. It brings with it energy-sapping heat and humidity, and frequently dumps sandy dust from that desert as far inland as Sevilla where it will coat all the streets and cars.

We arrived in Algeciras on the day of a local Fiesta, Santa Cristina. Just before sunset we watched the blessing of the fishing fleet from the upper plaza. It involved many boats going about the harbour tooting their horns, firing water at each other and setting off parachute flares (you wouldn’t want to have been a boat in trouble that day).

Blessing of the Fleet - Algeciras Spain

Later that evening, as we lay zonked on our beds under an ineffectual ceiling fan in the sweltering heat, the music and parading of the saint’s effigy through the local streets started up, culminating in the lighting of innumerable fireworks. The band’s drum beat thudded a repetitive funeral-dirge rhythm (the saint’s carriage, supported by many men, is very heavy) and the band, made up of oboes, saxophones, clarinets and trumpets, played its distinctively Spanish-fiesta refrain.

It was quite effectively haunting (as befits the mystery of the church), however, even as the fireworks started up I lay unmoved and sweating abed; I heard Rachel go to the window once and mutter something about the cost of the fireworks. Fortunately, we have been lucky enough at other times to witness a few of these fiestas and processions so didn’t feel we were missing anything.

At dawn (and quite oddly for this urban environment) roosters started crowing. A lot of people living near us seem to live in one room apartments which open right onto the street (now where have we seen that before?) and, god knows, in their economising they may keep the chickens indoors. Fresh eggs, at least. Alternatively, they could be penning them up on the flat roofs.

Grubby and old Algeciras – it is, after all, a fishing port, a very busy ferry port and a major cargo port. Four or five (depends on how business is going) regular hookers stand in the morning’s heat hugging the wall not twenty metres from where we stay (there were others there last night – we’ve taken to saying hello to them). The old market – one of the best and busiest you will encounter in the whole of Spain I kid you not – is five hundred metres away from our accommodation and is surrounded by bars selling fabulous food in the way of tapas, raciones (or half raciones) or platos and, of course, liquid refreshments. (pic below: boquerones and paella as bar tapas)

Boquerones in Algeciras Spain

Paella in Algeciras Spain

Not unexpectedly in this port that services Morocco, there are also many things Moroccan here in the way of food, clothing, etc.; an interesting and positive mix. Last night we ventured uphill to the old plaza mayor (major) and fed ourselves up there in a place we used to frequent but, good as it is, it is a more costly exercise and we are now content to spend our remaining time down below where things are more modestly priced: in fact they are really affordable but will get even more so when we sail over to Tangier from Tarifa (a short bus ride from Algeciras) tomorrow.

We took the half hour bus ride over to La Linea (the border with Gibraltar) in the afternoon just to revisit some old haunts and kill some time and lo and behold, encountered yet another small fiesta:

La Linea Spain

One of our favourite bars in La Linea – La Parada
La Parada in La Linea Spain

And the very next day, much to Noddy’s delight, he and Big Ears embarked on a ferry to cross the Straits of Gibraltar to land in the Kingdom of Morocco. Make sure you read next week’s exciting story of this adventurous couple as they make breathtaking discoveries and drink lots and lots of mint tea. Bye bye for now dear readers . . .