a life dedicated to the world of photography
Photography was the passion of the father and also of his two sons and his daughter. The Català lineage has left a legacy in images that reflects not only a whole century of history in Catalonia, from different angles, but also snapshots taken abroad, such as when Joan Miró was painting in Osaka, where he was set up a pavilion.
Now, the hometown of the Català family, Valls, will host for the first time in the same exhibition the work of the father and his two children -the daughter was dedicated to retouching the images-, emphasizes the director and curator of the Museu de Valls, Jordi Paris, who met his three children.
It is an exhibition produced by the Museum of History of Catalonia and the National Archive of Catalonia, which will then go to Madrid.
The exhibition consists of 170 photographs, spanning from 1915 to the late 1990s. "The history of the family is very representative of some aspects of life in the country," says Paris.
And it is that it was closely linked to the situation and the reality of the time. His father, Pere Català y Pic, lost his father at a very young age «and, therefore, his intellectual training was cut short. And his children also because of the Civil War and its consequences».
The exhibition consists of 170 images spanning from 1915 to the late 1990s.
His eldest son, Francesc Català-Roca, starts working at the age of 13 to bring money to the family. His brother, Pedro, after the Civil War, wanted to continue studying at the university –he liked history very much– but he also had to work because his father was in hiding because he had been in the Propaganda Police Station of the Generalitat with everything that this implied.
"Pau Casals put a car at his disposal to go into exile but he didn't want to because he had an older mother and he was an only child," recalls Jordi Paris, "but the one who died first was his wife."
Pere Català y Pic, fatherless at the age of three, moves with his mother to the house of some relatives in Barcelona, where they set up a kind of guest house. One of the clients, who is from Valls, helps Pedro to enter a bank as a bellhop.
the first camera
In 1914, the entity raffled off a camera and it was Pere's turn, who was 25 years old. That moment coincides in that in Valls the photographer-portraitist leaves and decides to return to his hometown, without having any knowledge of photography.
In 1915, Pere Català y Pic settled in Valls «and is very aware of how photography evolves. He travels to Paris several times. And there he realizes that photography is evolving and that one of the best fields to earn a living was to get into advertising photography ». He thinks that in Valls he will have few clients and in 1932 he returns to Barcelona.
In Barcelona, it had important companies as clients: Ford, Chocolate Juncosa, Cinzano, etc. Until 1932 he signed the photos as 'Català' but from then on, with the boycott of the Statute and as he had work all over Spain, they suggested that he better not do it.
Until 1936 he had a lot of work but this ended with the start of the Spanish Civil War. He enters the Commissioner of Propaganda, «because one of the subjects that had interested him was psychology in advertising. He even wrote a book, which has never been published ».
Photo Signature Change
After the war, he does not leave the house for a few months "and his children have to wake up." When the situation began to normalize, he set up the Catalan Illustrated Advertising (PIC) laboratory.
It was a hard time and he photographed everything that came to him, even the deceased. In the laboratory was the father, who is the one who had the advertising vision; Francisco was in charge of the street work, his sister Maria Àurea did the retouching of the photos and his son Pedro was in charge of the most administrative part.
"They made a good living. They had good clients, like the perfumery company Myrurgia, a collaboration that lasted 40 years”.
In the 1950s, the Català laboratory wanted to introduce color photography. Made a lot of resources. Father and sons made several trips to Paris to the Kodak house to learn the technique. But they realized that it was not advanced enough – the color did not last – and they abandoned the project.
Pere Català i Pic died in 1971 and in the 1980s his son Pere Català Roca closed the business as a company, but he continued taking photos. He is dedicated to the advertising part.
But for pleasure and desire he takes documentary photos of castells, both stone and human ones –he was the promoter of the Museu Casteller de Catalunya in 1975–. He wrote about the casteller world and a history of the stone castles in six volumes. "His hobby was history and photography as a historical document."
He defended the link between Columbus and Catalonia, although he never said that he was Catalan. He was in contact with the intellectual world, with culture, as archivists, historians, writers, etc.
Jordi Paris says of Pere Català and Roca that «he was a charm, a very close person. If he could do you a favor, he would do it for you ». He remembers that he was one of the promoters of the reunion between Catalonia and Alghero.
In the 1950s he organized the reunion trip. A street in the city bears his name, «and when an Alghero went to Barcelona he had to go to Pere's house».
Francesc Català-Roca, in 1948, decided to separate professionally from his father's laboratory because he wanted to take a different kind of photography. He stops giving publicity and dedicates himself more to documentary photography.
It should be remembered that at the age of 13 he entered the Propaganda Commissariat of the Republic, where the world's great photographers passed by, who came to cover the war: "And he saw the copies of the images captured on his forehead."
It was the time when the Leika camera came out, very light, and during the war its use became widespread. Gone are the big ones with a tripod. "The photos were gaining strength and he decides that he likes that instant photograph, that it captures the precise moment, that unrepeatable moment." However, he also takes photos of bullfighting and architecture.
Francisco said that "he saw the photographs before throwing them away." Keep in mind that carts were used at the time, they came from Germany, they were expensive and there were few of them, so it was a matter of taking few photos. «Many times he saw that if it was not the right moment he would not take the photo. If he went to the site and saw that the light was not good, he would come back in the afternoon».
He worked hard for the Ministry of Tourism, which allowed him to tour the whole of Spain when tourism was just beginning. When book illustration began, he made the images. It has about 50 volumes.
He came into contact with a whole group of artists, with whom he would be friends, such as Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró. He had to choose to take photos of only one and he leaned towards the last one.
He photographed it from 1953 until his death. He followed her for more than 30 years, during which she also made documentaries of him. Other friends were Josep Guinovart, Eduardo Chillida or Antoni Clavé.
The great tribute to the Català family was made in 2011 by putting them in the Gallery of Illustrious Vallencs, says Jordi Paris. Of the exhibition that can be seen in Valls, it stands out that it is the only one in which everyone is represented as a group: «Value all the members of the family. It can be seen that the look of the father is transmitted to the children.
The exhibition The Catalans. photographers of a century, which is part of the Santa Úrsula Fair, will be inaugurated at six in the afternoon on Saturday 22 at the Museu de Valls and can be seen until February 5, on Tuesdays from five to eight in the afternoon; from Wednesday to Saturday from eleven in the morning to two in the afternoon and from five to eight, and Sundays and holidays from eleven in the morning to two in the afternoon.