Gran Vía nevada (Gran Vía Under Snow)

Francesc Català-Roca

Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 - Barcelona, Spain, 1998
  • Date: 
    1953 / Posthumous print, 2003
  • Technique: 
    Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper
  • Dimensions: 
    With frame: 102 x 102 cm
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In the early 1950s (Luis Martín-Santos’ Tiempo de silencio [Time of Silence]) Madrid was the seat of Franco’s government, which had been responsible for the destruction of a large part of the city during the Civil War. As Dámaso Alonso wrote in 1944, “Madrid is a city of more than a million corpses / (According to the latest statistics).” But national isolation and post-war economic ruin began to lessen in intensity: rationing stopped in 1952 and the following year American aid began to arrive. Over those two years, Francesc Català-Roca photographed the city, commissioned by the Barcelona publisher Destino. In 1954, the company brought out the Guía de Madrid, written by Juan Antonio Cabezas and illustrated with “human interest” photographs taken with a Rolleiflex that showed the city through the eyes of a casual traveller who was at once curious and open to ideas, like the finest documentary photographers. The Guía de Madrid is a literary rather than photographic work, so Català-Roca’s pictures are of secondary importance in spite of the quality of his street photography, showing the Gran Vía boulevard of the victors, with traditional characters alongside the first tourists, in very amiable, cinematographic black and white photos.

Horacio Fernández