Faces of Mallorca by Stephanie Schulz and Mark Julian Edwards is unique in that it tells the story of Mallorca by focusing on local people and their characterful faces. That is, native Mallorcans as well as Spanish people who have lived on the island for some years.
Among the people featured is Deià’s own Llewellyn Graves, aka DJ and activist Nin Petit.
Mark and Stephanie are two friends from the UK and Stephanie who ended up being based in Mallorca quite by accident. Outsiders, they fell in love with the island and made it their home.
Faces of Mallorca came about because Stephanie and Mark wanted to break the “sun, sea and sand stereotype” and showcase the full diversity of life on the island.
They also didn’t want to produce yet another glossy coffee-table book about Mallorca stuffed with photos of the landscape or luxurious homes. This was most definitely a book about the people themselves.
As they write in the book, it was born out of a conversation on a lovely summer evening. “We were in a reflective mood, relaxing by the sea, a bottle of wine half empty. We both love storytelling and are fascinated by people. And so, we had the idea of creating this book about the people of Mallorca.”
They continue, “Many of the people left us with a feeling of happiness and positive energy.”
Mark took the wonderfully expressive photographs and he and Stephanie co-wrote the book.
There’s not a vast amount of text. Sometimes a photograph might be accompanied by just a sentence. For other photos, there might be three pages. This unpredictability is gently engaging.
One of the things that’s remarkable about Faces of Mallorca is the way it introduces the reader to people you most probably would never otherwise have discovered such as Maria Gilbert.
Maria has a YouTube channel on which she shares traditional Mallorcan recipes. She has a startling 117,000 followers.
To find the people featured in Faces of Mallorca, just under 60 of them, Stephanie and Mark employed a variety of tactics.
As Mark says, “A lot of the time I would just walk up to people at events. I had no shame. Perhaps because I’d come from another country, I felt quite unleashed. We used our networks and asked for recommendations from the people we interviewed, asking them who they found interesting and inspiring on the island. That often led us to new people.”
It helped that Stephanie speaks Mallorcan Catalan as well as Spanish.
One of the things that struck Mark and Stephanie when they were talking to people was the level of openness they encountered.
“A lot of outsiders and even Mallorcans themselves say they’re very reserved and it takes a long time to build up trust, but we found the opposite,” Mark says. “Everyone was really welcoming. Often people invited us into their homes, fed us traditional Mallorcan dishes and gave us wine.”
Mark believes this is because people recognised that Stephanie’s and his intentions were pure. Once they realised the pair was serious, they “were honored to be part of it. I’m struggling to think of anyone who said no to us.”
Steffi adds, “Actually, we often had the feeling that rather than being bothered by nosy foreigners, many people were happy to be listened to and to be able to tell their side of the story, so often unheard.”
An island full of life
Reading the book, it’s clear that many of the people profiled are determined to play their part in keeping Mallorcan culture alive.
The book project started with Stephanie and Mark meeting Miquel Cabrer, a schoolteacher at the traditional Catholic school of Sant Françesc but an enthusiastic demon during fiestas such as Sant Antoni.
Miquel is part of the devils’ association, Dimonis de Sa Cova des Fossar, in the town of Sineu in the middle of the island.
“Being part of the devil’s association is by far the most exciting thing I do. It is all about keeping traditions alive,” Miquel explains in the book.
For Mark and Stephanie, Miquel’s “fierce determination to keep Mallorcan culture alive as much as possible indicates that there’s a battle going but that people are really taking it on.”
As you’d imagine, Stephanie and Mark have gone deep in their exploration of Mallorca. For Mark, three places spring to mind when he’s asked where he’d suggest someone goes in search of authentic Mallorcan culture.
“I would head for Bar Casa Miss in Sa Pobla,” he says. “This is so real, just so local, so authentic. There’s a real friendliness and warmth. The food’s really reasonably priced too.”
Another place Mark recommends, which is in Faces of Mallorca, is Es Cruce in Villafranca. “It’s a restaurant where they haven’t changed the menu for maybe ever,” he says. “It’s the unchanged sameness that people love. You’re totally surrounded by that old tradition. Vermouth flying about, really traditional Mallorcan food. It’s fantastic.”
When it comes to experiencing nature, Mark suggests heading for the Auberge hostel in the mountains above Alaro that’s roughly a 50 minute walk beyond the famous Es Verger lamb restaurant on the way up to Alaro Castle.
“The view is my favourite in the whole of Mallorca,” Mark says. “You overlook Alaro, the mountains, and on a good day you can see all the way to the coast.”
Mark has no hesitation in recommending places casual visitors to Mallorca may well not even know exist. It fits with the mission of Faces of Mallorca.
“What we’re trying to do with the book,” he says, “is suggest that people don’t just limit their stay on the island to a few days in Palma or by the beach. We hope that, by telling the peoples’ stories, we’ll intrigue readers enough that they wonder some more about the unique culture here, follow up on the recommendations they make and explore some of these authentically Mallorcan places.”
The response to Faces of Mallorca
The reception for Faces of Mallorca has been excellent, suggesting that there’s a real curiosity about authentic Mallorcan life and the people who live it.
Mark wrote a well-received piece about the book for The Guardian website. Also, the blurbs for Faces of Mallorca are superlative.
Tony Wheeler, creator of the Lonely Planet says, “Faces of Mallorca beautifully transports you into island life through stunning images and moving stories of its people.”
Andreu Serra, Tourism Minister for Mallorca says, “Faces of Mallorca takes us back to the roots of the island and its people. At the same time, it shows us the most up-to-date Mallorca, its most famous personalities and the ordinary people who make up our beautiful society. It is a magnificent piece of work as it also conveys the future that awaits us.”
Trevor Cole, Travel Photographer of the Year, People & Cultures, 2021, says, “The characters portrayed come alive and their stories are so relatable and real. The images all have their own imprint – they are very candid and meaningful in the context of the stories. The authors have done a great job at connecting with these people and conveying a realism which is eclectic but tangible.”
Faces of Mallorca is available at good Mallorcan bookshops such as Babel, Come In and Casa del Libro in Palma as well as at Amazon. It’s published by Triangles Postals in Barcelona.
All photographs by Mark Julian Edwards.