Joan Colom Biography

Joan Colom (Barcelona, 1921), winner of Spain’s National Award in Photography 2002, belongs to a generation of Spanish photographers who, in the second half of the nineteen-fifties, renewed photographic language and brought this art into the avant-garde of the time. Colom was one of the precursors of working in photographic series. According to critic Josep María Casademont, Colom’s generation is that of the “new avant-garde”, with colleagues such as Miserachs, Maspons and Masats, all drawing inspiration from the work of Català-Roca and his book on Barcelona (1954). He began to take pictures of the streets in Barcelona’s red light district in 1958. Until 1961 Colom continued his quest to take photos of the “dregs of society” while going unnoticed. He would take pictures without looking through the viewfinder and press the shutter from a camera below his waist. The result is a masterful combination of avant-garde photo-essay and a faithful portrait of the poorest working class of Barcelona, the disadvantaged, the prostitutes, the children, and the atmospheres around the boarding houses used for sexual encounters. After three years of striving to take the difficult snapshots that would truly reflect life in the red light district. In 1964 he published these images in a book published by Lumenm, Izas, rabizas y colipoterras, with text by Camilo José Cela. The controversy that arose from this publication influenced Colom’s decision to temporarily distance himself from photography. He returned to it in the eighties.