Lanzarote: not so grotty - street photography

Lanzarote, February 2016 Here are some photographic highlights of a recent winter trip to Lanzarote with my girlfriend. Photography by yours truly – words by Laura.

Winter is far too long and in Edinburgh it particularly sucks. Yearning for some sunshine and warmth, we decided to pack our bags and head to Europe’s number one Winter destination: The Canaries. We had already read that Lanzarote, the southernmost of the islands, has recently shed its notorious image of Lanzagrotty and has transformed itself into a forward-thinking, eco- island. Nevertheless, I was still doubtful and fully prepared to be spending my time there among the stereotypical sunburnt Brits abroad eating a full English whilst watching the United match. How wrong I was! Whilst Lanzarote still does cater for certain tourists whose number one priority the above things are, its reputation of being grotty is completely unjustified.

Outside the very small designated tourist areas (which are of course as hilariously surreal as anywhere else) we discovered a completely unspoilt island with a unique character and landscape. At times, it literally feels like you are walking on the moon. The black earth and volcanoes are omnipresent on the island, stretching down into the clear blue water. Sky, sea and black sands as far as the eye can see, with some amazing varieties of cacti scattered in-between. It is incredibly clean and well kept and the normally ubiquitous garish high-rise buildings are conspicuous here only by their absence. This is down largely to one man: The local artist César Manrique. He has left his beautiful stamp all over the island, in monuments on roundabouts, opera houses built into the volcanic caves, art museums and of course in the form of his own studios and various marvellous homes across the island. His huge light-flooded bathroom in his last abode on the island is simply to die for.

Manrique had a unique vision for his native island - to preserve its natural beauty and to save it from the excesses and ugliness of mass tourism. Endlessly campaigning for protecting his Lanzarote, he has ultimately succeeded – the island’s landscape and its architecture is largely still the same as a hundred years ago. The island’s green credentials and policies are impeccable and very progressive. It is now attracting more tourists to stay in rural local Fincas than in its beach resorts. It’s an inspiration to follow Manrique’s artistic trail on Lanzarote – at times it feels as if the whole island itself is a tribute, an homage, to its most prominent and beloved figure. Yet what’s most impressive is that Manrique seemed to have profoundly influenced people’s attitude towards the island - you can tell that there is a deep sense of appreciation for their Lanzarote.

We particularly fell in love with the north of the island. The landscape there is slightly more lush and diverse. There are charming little fishing villages with great waves, the tastiest food and interesting locals. Should you ever go to visit I would wholeheartedly recommend a tiny place called Arrieta, and a beach called La Garita. You will not be disappointed. Languidly sipping wine and eating pimientos de padrón, surfing in the beautiful evening light and enjoying the sun on our faces in the middle of February, we asked ourselves why we had never come here before…

For a flavour of the island, have a look at some of Jim’s favourite shots below. Enjoy.