With Xavier Cervera’s photograph of the candidates for the presidency of the Generalitat at the mouth of the Besòs, the tradition established by Pedro Madueño 40 years ago. Four decades portraying the strange consensus that, except on rare occasions, has presided over Catalan politics and that has made this ritual a differential event.

Madueño remembers how a young photojournalist came up with the idea of ​​bringing together the Catalan presidential candidates for the day of reflection. “I had arrived at La Vanguardia in 1983, aged 23. The following year, Manuel Ibáñez Escofet commissioned me to take photos of posters and the electoral atmosphere to publish on the day of the voting. I suggested the possibility of bringing the candidates together for the day of reflection. It had never been done before, but I was convinced that if Jordi Pujol said yes, all the others would also accept”, explains the father of the idea

Indeed, Pedro Madueño forwarded his proposal to the president of the Generalitat. He was received in his office where, with the help of a drawing (a simple story board), he presented him with the proposal to sit around a ballot box – the one used in the elections of the company’s committee daily – the five main candidates of those second parliamentary elections. Pujol’s response was immediate, without hesitation: “Let’s do it.” This can only be done in Catalonia”.

The president was not at all wrong. Madueño once tried to reproduce the Catalan experience in Madrid, but with Felipe González and José María Aznar as the main roosters in the barnyard, that proved impossible.

Over time, “the portrait of consensus”, a name coined by the current deputy director of La Vanguardia Enric Juliana, became quite a tradition. The photograph has always been taken during the day of reflection, the first in the offices of the La Vanguardia editorial office on Carrer Pelai, until in 1995 it went out into the street.

That first photo from 40 years ago was also the “portrait of power”, notes Madueño, showing that “serious” scenography. In a second phase there was an evolution of the concept and the author began to portray the protagonists of the elections in an attitude more similar to that of the ordinary citizen, more everyday. And in the third stage, the current one, the image was associated with the present.

Pedro Madueño, who has also portrayed the mayors of Barcelona for the municipal elections, admits that on some occasions the production has not been easy at all. For example, in 1995, when the tradition, already established and with a single parenthesis in 1988 (in 2017 the circumstances of Catalan politics would also prevent it from being respected), was moved for the first time outside the newspaper, to a balcony of the Quarry, blackened in those days by the pollution that so affects Gaudí’s stone. A complicated assembly that forced a crane to be placed in the middle of Paseo de Gràcia. Or in 2012, when Madueño had the idea of ​​taking the candidates for the presidency of the Generalitat to a bridge under construction for the AVE in the Baix Llobregat. “We had to move the bridge and paint half of it”, recalls the author of that photograph.

Jordi Pujol was the facilitator of the first photograph. “He is the politician with whom I have had the most relationship. It was 23 years! He was very aware of the importance of the image in politics and of the photo opportunity”. In this tradition of Catalan politics which is the photo of the candidates for the presidency of the Generalitat, the convergent leader is, with his successor Artur Mas, who appears the most times, four in total. With two photos each there are the socialists Raimon Obiols and Pasqual Maragall, the popular Aleix Vidal-Quadras and the republican Àngel Colom.

Each image has its own anecdote. In the first, Madueño, who always made it a rule not to think about the electoral photo until a month before the elections, placed the ballot box equidistant from the chairs where the five candidates were supposed to sit, but the socialist Raimon Obiols moved his seat towards the center of the scene. That search for political centrality was reflected on the front page of La Vanguardia on April 28, 1984, in which the candidate for the presidency of the PSC appears practically side by side with Jordi Pujol.

The photo of the balcony of La Pedrera almost couldn’t be taken. He was saved for just five minutes, the time it took between Madueño’s final shot and the fall of a veritable deluge on Barcelona.

In 1999 the chosen stage was the Sagrada Família school in Barcelona’s Eixample. In those elections it was necessary to elect the first Catalan president of the 21st century, the one the new generations who appear in the image would know. To surround the candidates with those future voters, it was necessary to mobilize the entire educational center. The cover of La Vanguardia of November 16, 2003 also had some difficulties, which moved the candidates to an advertising fence, painted in the colors of the flag, in Gavà. The candidate of the PP, Josep Piqué, suffered from vertigo and until the last moment a protective scaffolding had to be maintained to avoid problems. Or the one in 2012, which required moving a boat anchored at the Real Club Nàutic de Barcelona from the port to a dry dock to symbolize the new course of Catalan politics.