Carlos Alba: I’ll Bet the Devil My Head

Over a span of four years, Carlos Alba, a Spanish artist residing in Tower Hamlets, captured the daily existence of a local Red fox family (Vulpes vulpes). Tower Hamlets is an area in London where 43% of children live in poverty, making it the highest poverty rate in the city. Interestingly, this neighborhood is geographically sandwiched between two prominent financial hubs in the world – The City of London and Canary Wharf.
In the UK, foxes hold significant symbolic value, with Londoners divided between adoration and disdain for these creatures. The social tensions arising from the Brexit conflict mirror the stark animosity prevailing between pro and anti-fox factions. While some view urban foxes negatively, the truth is that, much like humans, foxes adapt to their environment and thrive where circumstances allow. The visual narrative titled ‘I’ll Bet The Devil My Head’ serves as a metaphor, highlighting the shared traits and experiences between humans and foxes while shedding light on the disparities among residents of various London neighborhoods.
To create this project, Alba embarked on photographing during the hours when city brokers left their offices and the foxes emerged onto the streets. Employing a methodology akin to a wildlife photographer, Alba carefully observed the behavior of his subjects, patiently awaiting the appearance of both humans and foxes. The resulting photographs capture the fleeting movements of both foxes and city workers traversing the same streets. The backgrounds often juxtaposed sleek, austere office buildings against areas where nature slowly reclaims the city. Artificial street and office lights predominantly illuminate the scenes, shrouding both people and beasts in darkness and shadow.

The timing of this project coincided with the EU Referendum, which intensified discussions about the divide between London and the rest of the country. Despite the widespread perception of London as a bastion of privileged metropolitan elites, the reality revealed a stark contrast, with inequality in the capital higher than in other parts of England. The divisive views on Brexit in the UK paralleled Londoners’ own conflicting emotions about foxes – some celebrating the presence of urban wildlife while others perceiving them as a menace.
Although the book primarily centers around a small area of London, Red foxes are thriving in urban locations worldwide. Consequently, the book serves as a global metaphor for inequality, employing the fox as a symbol that has been familiar since Aesop’s fables over two millennia ago.
Carlos Alba initiated this project with the intent to document the profound disparities prevalent in contemporary society, aiming to address fundamental issues like poverty, homelessness, and childhood deprivation, particularly in a neighborhood juxtaposed between financial powerhouses like Canary Wharf and The City of London.

“ I selected the urban foxes as a metaphor of the working class, the ravens as an element of social control and the brookers as the elite of this fable. I like to play with the universal language of a short story that tells a moral truth and can be interpreted from children to ancients.” (Carlos Alba)

About the Author

Carlos Alba (*1984) is a Madrileño, a city dweller, who loves arts, cooking vegan food for friends, taking long walks, traveling, and discovering new adventures along the way. With over 15 years of experience in the media industry, he has specialized as a photographer and videographer. In addition to his media work, he has a passion for creating things with wood and designing artist books. Moreover, he finds great satisfaction in working with people and building new relationships. As an artist, he enjoys contemplating contemporary social issues from interdisciplinary perspectives.

A portrait of Carlos Alba by Nicolás Llasera

Flexicover with cloth: 104 pages
Publisher: VOID (2023)
Language: English
Size: 4.53 x 6.3 inches
Edition: 500 copies
ISBN-13: 978-6185479275

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