The average person sees thousands of ads each day. It’s possible to avoid them online by installing web extensions and apps, but there’s no offline equivalent to block all the billboards, bus decals, and banners from view.
Jorge Pérez Higuera wishes there were, which is why he made Public Spaces. The photo series imagines streets, squares, and other city spaces swiped clean, as though run through an ad blocker. “I erase advertising like the plugin does in our browsers,” Higuera says.
Advertisers spend $29 billion a year plastering highways, train stations, and other public spaces with ads. Higuera had mostly tuned them out until one day several years ago when he decided to pass the half-hour bus and train commute from his home in Guadalajara, Spain to class at the Complutense University of Madrid by counting all the ads he saw. “It was 850 each way,” he says. “In 30 minutes.”
He began Public Spaces in 2014 as a way to fight back. Over the next several years, Higuera photographed dozens of ads while traveling through Spain, Italy, England, and Monaco. After scanning the film from his Hasselblad 500c, he set to work in Photoshop erasing cellphones, sneakers, and fashion models from the frames. Then he tweaked the saturation, color and contrast to give the images a similar mood.
The resulting scenes are refreshingly quiet, a glimpse at beauty obscured by marketing. While you know you can’t really block out ads IRL, they offer space to reflect and think—and imagine a world with less intrusive advertising.