Joan Colom - Álbum del Raval 2
Camera held at his waist, a feigned nonchalance to his gait, no eye contact under any circumstances: this is how Joan Colom navigated the prostitutes and hustlers in the backstreets of the Raval in the Fifties and Sixties. But unlike the people who wanted nothing to do with this area, Colom was desperately involved in an affair with Barcelona’s seediest barrio. For nearly a decade, he walked the Raval photographing the daily activities of its working class. He captured tender embraces, clandestine eyes, overt sexual invitations, discreet gestures, the curve of a breast or bum, a stocking hiked back up, a young boy’s furtive glance, the strength radiating from a person choosing to wait for hours in a rehearsed pose in a shaded doorway.
The achievement is not that Colom captured all of this in photographs that defy the labels of voyeurism or fetishism, instead appearing as faithful visual transcriptions of a neighbourhood existing comfortably in its own skin, but that he did so for a decade while maintaining almost complete anonymity.
The 76 photographs that make up this album were given to Colom’s publisher, Josep Maria Casademont with Colom saying that these were his favourites. Casademont, an artistic activist, championed the social relevance of the photographs and as a result they became an extremely important photo essay of the social fabric of that time. Colom himself felt a strong affinity to the places he photographed but would only go so far as to say, “I searched for images that moved me. I only wanted to be a notary of the time.” His Raval album remains to this day a study of photographic intuition and a manifestation of the spirit of a different time and place. For the next 20 or more years, Colom’s production dwindled as Franco’s regime tagged his photography ‘lewd’, all but blackballing its circulation and production. However, in 2002 Colom was awarded the Spanish National Prize for Photography for his contribution to the culture of Spanish photography and his importance as a chronicler of a Barcelona that exists now only in images.
Until October 29th, 2011. Fundació Foto Colectania