Poster paster

For eight years, Gabriel Vargas (Santiago de Chile, 1990) has been sticking up posters for all types of events in some of Madrid’s busiest streets, especially in the most crowded neighbourhoods in the city centre. The company that he works for, Tengo un Trato, is one of the most experienced in a trade which tends to be judged with some prejudice.

Poster pasting was one of the first and most effective actions of “street marketing” which became popular in the most developed cities, especially with the advent of industrialisation since the late 19th century. It is still effective despite the countless technological changes that the world has gone through. Just like any human activity, it can be done any old how...or with taste and dignity.

This young Chilean, living in Spain since very young, prides himself on having learnt to do his job well: you can see that he likes it and enjoys it. All of that, despite the windy and rainy days and, more importantly, the (not so) cold war that for some time now a gold-buying business has declared on them. They boycott their work by covering up their posters continuously, and thus, ruining the street aesthetics. Gabriel responds to the conflict calmly and tells us the insights into a craft thanks to which we can admire the designers’ creativity, and get to know the great variety of cultural events just by walking around the main streets of a big city like Madrid.

A typical workday.

“We go to our warehouse in Ópera. Our bosses give us a list and tell us how many posters we have to paste. They plan that amount, and tell us what areas we have to cover. We load our gear and posters, prepare trolleys, buckets and brushes and start the route. We always start with the area where our posters have been taken down, and we go through it so they can be seen again. Generally, I always paste, regardless of the weather. I like doing my job. When it rains I wear a raincoat, although if it gets too rainy or windy, we wait until it clears up and then we continue”.

The key to poster pasting.

“Paste it firmly. Be there all the time. We are out in the street for such a long time, we’re always pasting. We do three shifts: mornings, evenings and nights. We are the only ones who paste at nightime. And if we get our posters covered, we paste again. You always have to be there and check to see if our poster is covered to stick up another one. We respect the people who paste just one and want it to be seen. At the end of the day we paste a whole bunch of them, but we do our best so that people can see everything. The most important areas are Malasaña, Tribunal, La Latina, Lavapiés...the city centre”.

Town hall regulations.

“We paste in a way that we don’t disturb anyone. As far as I know, there’s a sort of legal loophole concerning poster pasting. In certain places such as this (a fenced site), nobody can tell us anything. Otherwise, if we paste on building façades or walls, we risk getting fined. We don’t do that kind of pasting, we know where we have to do it, where police are not going to say anything, always making sure we don’t damage the street furniture. We already have the exact spots. In all the years I have been doing this, I have never had an issue or a problem with the police. There are people who know us and they know we are working.”

The best and the worst things about the job.

The best is that, as far as I’m concerned, it’s fun. I find it quiet relaxing being outdoors, I walk and paste. I know Madrid, especially the city centre, through and through. The worst is that people sometimes don’t understand that kind of advertising. There are older people who tell you that you are dirtying the streets. You have to answer: “No, madam, we’re just pasting posters”.

The war against the “We Buy Gold” pasters.

“We have an issue with them, yes. Probably our biggest problem now. Actually, it’s they who have a problem with us. We simply do our job. They take it personally. They say they have orders to do it that way. It’s just that business in particular. I don’t want to backbite them, but there are are lots of rumours. What they do is not quite legal. They’ve been doing that for almost two years. We have always worked in the city centre, because that’s where the posters are most visible, and they have just showed up here thinking that they own the street”.

“It’s a bit weird. I don’t want to play their game, I just do my job. I had a row with one of them just now. I told him he’s ruining the work of everybody who’s been doing this for years, by pasting badly and littering. Also, it’s their fault that we can get stopped by the police. Their side of the story is that it all started because we covered their posters. We have no problem with other people pasting their posters; we all know and respect each other. However, they’re now in the city centre they paste their posters in a way that, to us, is just not right. They have the right to paste, but they go all out to cover ours. They don’t respect other people’s work”.

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© JC Peña • PosterCity