When photographs talk to each other: Foto Colectania displays its fabulous collection

“On the Rambla there are prostitutes, tourists, criminals, police… and me,” Joan Colom (Barcelona, ​​1921-2017), a photographer who over more than 50 years of intense wandering – from Canaletes to Drassanes and from Drassanes to Canaletes, and starting again – he portrayed the scoundrel Barcelona like no one else, especially that Chinese neighborhood that no longer exists and on which he projected his gaze. Objective? Tender? Libidinous? “Street photography has been associated with unforeseen encounters, scenes of freedom captured in an instant, but in reality they had nothing objective but rather were marked by the gender perspective,” says Carles Guerra in front of some of the color snapshots that the street photographer took. in the nineties and which are part of the exhibition The Course of Events, a selection of 160 works from the collection of the Fundació Foto Colectania.

“But that does not make these photographs less interesting, on the contrary, we know more about that situation and it is good to take another look at them,” adds the curator, who places Colom’s images alongside others by Leopoldo Pomés (1937-1998) and Xavier Miserachs (1937-1998) in which the city environment apparently captured on the fly is biased by male voyeurism.

We are in the first of the eight blocks – each of which is like a small exhibition – in which the curator displays the collection’s funds, establishing unexpected dialogues between photographers from different generations who in many cases did not know each other, generating new readings of the topics they discussed and, incidentally, a choral reflection on the photographic medium itself. “The collection itself works like a camera, a device that continues to create new images beyond those taken by its authors,” adds Guerra, who has spent months immersed in a collection of 3,000 works by 80 Spanish and Portuguese authors, as well as from the archive of photographer Francisco Gómez.

A collection through which it is possible to meticulously reconstruct both the history and modernization of the medium itself since the second half of the 20th century and that of the societies it portrays. The exhibition will travel in the fall to the headquarters of the Martin Z. Margulies Collection, in Miami, coinciding with the Art Bassel celebration, according to Mario Rotllant, businessman, collector and president of the foundation, for whom one of the fundamental objectives is to “give meet the authors of the collection in the US and Latin America, spread the taste for Spanish photography beyond our borders.”

The course of events. An atlas from the Foto Colectania Collection also raises a dichotomy between iconic images, “those that captured a moment of an event, which was known as the moment, although unfortunately they left other versions of the same events in the shadows,” and a new way of understanding photography, in which “it is obliged to collaborate with anyone who stands in front of the lens.” It is not just a generational issue, but a different way of thinking about the medium: the camera does not capture something at random but rather participates and adds to the cause of what it photographs.

Thus, Ricard Terré (1928-2009), who portrayed everyday life in a special education center for children with autism spectrum disorders in Vigo in the nineties, shares a wall with Clemente Bernad (1963) and his series about the Corrala de Neighbors La Utopia, in Seville, a building abandoned by its bankrupt construction company, and occupied by 40 families with economic problems, many of them evicted. Next to it, the long-length report carried out by Adriana López Sanfeliu (1976) about a gypsy family, the Salazars, or the two women who face the experience of illegal abortion, whose images Laia Abril (1986) complete with texts, what the photographer calls Photo Novel.

The exhibition also brings together the suburban Barcelona of Manolo Laguillo (1953) with the portraits made by Humberto Rivas (1937-2009), underlining the friendship between the two, also stating that “urban planning is not done only by erecting buildings, laying out streets, but the city also captures the movements of people”, as in the magnificent image of a Lisbon street taken in the fifties by Gérard Castello-Lope (1925-2011) in which a group of citizens advances in an orderly manner. Also in the Sundays of Xavier Ribas (1960), in the mourners at a funeral in Cadaqués by Xavier Miserachs (1937-1998) or in the demonstrations taken by Manel Armengol (1949) and Pilar Aymerich (1943) during the Transition.

Txema Salvans (1971) shows a different side of the landscape through the storks that, due to climate change, have adapted to survive in landfills and degraded spaces (“deep down, these photos are talking about us,” he says) and Miguel Trillo (1953), the author who has most and best documented youth culture since he began in the Madrid Movida, is surprised that his young people who in the nineties dressed in the sixties fashion, now find themselves with those Jorge Ribalta (1963) ) portrayed at Sònar in the series Sur l’herbe (In the grass). There are many more encounters that are not obvious in principle but that, once consummated, produce magnificent glimpses: the man who advances through the crowd along Pelai de Miserachs street, with the rituals of being possessed by spirits captured by Jordi Esteva (1951) in Africa or Los Afronautas by Cristina de Middel (1975), in which she recreates the African space race from fiction.

Almost at the end of the tour we find the portrait of Franco made by Ramón Masats (1931) together with the series made by Fernando Gordillo (1933-2015) in Pedro Bernardo, a town in Ávila in which the portrait of the dictator is a constant presence that accompanies its inhabitants from school to bars. Because, Guerra concludes, “photography not only allows us to see, but also helps to disseminate a state of things. This is how it can become an instrument of indoctrination.” Or quite the opposite. The person in charge of burying the dictator is the recently deceased Colita (1940-2023), of whom the photos of Franco’s funeral are shown in the Plaza de Oriente in Madrid.