Centenary of Francesc Català-Roca

Centenary of Francesc Català-Roca

On the centenary year of Francesc Català-Roca's birth, Foto Colectania wants to pay tribute to the renown pioneer of Spanish photography with several initiatives: on the one hand, a presentation of the collection of books and photographs in our library and conservation chamber and, on the other, a series of activities that will take place at the beginning of 2023 (events and dates to be announced soon).


With a small exhibition originating from the funds of our conservation chamber, the Foto Colectania Foundation pays tribute to Francesc Català-Roca (Valls 1922-Barcelona 1998) on the hundredth anniversary of his birth and to the members of the entire post-war generation, whose work constituted the beginning of the collection and that today is essential to understanding the photography of the time. With his silent but devoted practice, Francesc Català-Roca left his mark on the work of Oriol Maspons, Colita, Xavier Miserachs, Ramón Masats, Paco Gómez, Leopoldo Pomés, Ricard Terré and Joan Colom, among others. In all of them we can observe, both aesthetically and conceptually, a functional and creative photography, a documentary style with a sense of humour, a graphic and communicative vigour reinforced by a format adaptable to exhibition spaces and by a narration technique found in photobooks.

And all this is because Francesc Català-Roca, son of photographer and theoretician Pere Català Pic, kept alive in his work the avant-garde spirit that had practically disappeared during Franco's regime. His photography is a portrait of everyday life in the cities, towns and landscapes of 20th-century Spain and also of the cultural figures of the time, such as Ernst Hemingway, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Antoni Tàpies, Josep Pla and Joan Sutherland. This small collection of portraits, which will be displayed in this exhibition, can be regarded as a declaration of principles, almost a self-portrait in the skin of others, in terms of the admiration he had towards his models. We conclude this series with one of the few self-portraits made throughout his life as a young pioneer of the photographic medium: a humbly disfigured Català-Roca through the copper ball of a handrail.


A language-conscious professional, Francesc Català-Roca pioneered the use of photograph in advertising, redeemed documentary photography from its marginalised role in the art world introducing it into galleries, applied photography to design and architecture and, ultimately, exemplified the unlimited reproducibility of the photographic image in the publication of books, posters and illustrated magazines. In short, Francesc Català-Roca made the reality around him the starting point for education, reflection and knowledge.

Francesc Català-Roca's books on photography are abundant. In 1954 he was the author of the first photographic book on the city of Barcelona, with texts by Luís Romero. As time went by, he published "updates" of the portrait of the city, capturing the changes taking place: Ocho siglos de calles de Barcelona, published in 1974, with texts by Josep Maria Espinàs, and Ver Barcelona, published in 1984, with texts by Pere Calders.

In addition to his books on the city, of which he was the main chronicler, Català-Roca portrayed important people and architecture and his books are essential for understanding architectural and artistic processes, not only in Barcelona
but also in the rest of the country. Reports collected in guides and thematic books later formed the corpus of a body of work grouped together in exhibitions and publications under his prestigious name.

Català-Roca portrayed people on the street and in villages. In his books, photographs dialogue across pages and establish diagonals and tensions, forming authentic narratives through images. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle of life, we always discover gazes—few of them on camera, many of them self-absorbed or fixed on something—tracing lines to focus our attention on interesting details.

Francesc Català-Roca's photographs of today's emblematic monuments have provided information for their restoration, as in the case of the books on Gaudí edited by Aymá in 1952 and Polígrafa in 1983. These emphasised for the first time the importance of this globalist, Barcelonian citizen and photographer who had greatly changed the physiognomy of the city and of whom, after the civil war, almost all trace and interest had been lost. Català-Roca also photographed Gothic buildings, Catalan monasteries, ancestral homes, his islands, the Costa Brava, Cuenca, the two Castillas, Galicia, Murcia, etc. There are more than 100 publications among all his books.

Laura Terré Alonso
Curator of the Francesc Català-Roca Year