The Endless War

Antoni Campañà.
The tensions in a gaze
(1906-1989)


 
Curator:
Toni Monné, Arnau Gonzàlez i Vilalta and Plàcid Garcia-Planas

This is the unknown story of a photographer who deliberately hid 5,000 photographs of the Spanish Civil War in a red box. With his camera, Antoni Campañà i Bandranas (Arbúcies, 1906 – Sant Cugat del Vallès, 1989) shows us Catalonia in the 20th century and its contrasts. A professional artistic photographer, a photojournalist, he offers us a relentless, many-faceted view of the complexity of the 20th century. It is a story of beauty and technical mastery in which, above all, life and human beings come out on top.

The origins: «Danger: Father’s red boxes»

In late September 2018, Campañà’s son and grandson emptied out the garage of the family home in Sant Cugat del Vallès before having it demolished. Hidden among the junk, they found a large wooden box full of envelopes containing photographs and, at the very bottom, two red boxes. When they discovered them, the first thing Antoni Campañà Jr said was «Danger: Father’s red boxes». He was right to be wary, and the discovery was unique.

One man,
an entire range of
photographic techniques

Campañà’s professional career includes the whole range of photographic styles and techniques. From the pictorialism of the early years to the new avant-garde aesthetic trends emerging in Germany and the Soviet Union: high-angle, low-angle and diagonal shots that, combined with classic subjects or with images of the Civil War, were to consolidate a style of his own that would be recognized all over the world.

«I consider myself obliged to produce photographs with original points of view and I think it is my duty to show the world nature perfectly resolved by the divine hand».

Antoni Campañà

1927 - 1936

Searching
for beauty

Aged just 10, Campañà picked up his first camera almost by chance, photographing the people at the spa in Sant Hilari Sacalm and social events in Sarrià.

He immediately fell in love with the beauty and the art of photography and it went much further than a youthful vocation. After making contact with the Photographic Association of Catalonia, in 1927, photography became for him an urge, a biological act to capture beauty: the beauty of his time, of everyday life, the countryside and the new modernity that was emerging and would change everything.

The Photographic
Association of Catalonia

Founded in 1923, the Photographic Association of Catalonia (Agrupació Fotogràfica de Catalunya, AFC) emerged spontaneously among a group of amateur photographers who used to meet to discuss photographic techniques, following the example of the photographic associations in London and Paris.

In Catalonia, the AFC was one of the driving forces behind pictorialism, a controversial trend that advocated photography as a unique work of art, beyond the simple capturing of reality, by experimenting on images with techniques and materials.

During his time in the AFC, Campañà was one of the most prolific pictorialist photographers, and his work would be recognized in exhibitions and competitions all over the world.

Great masters, great friends

In the AFC, Campañà rubbed shoulders with great masters of photography who became great friends of his. They were a mixed bunch of liberal professionals, doctors and artists who pooled their interests and technical knowledge and advocated photography as an artistic space in which to experiment and express themselves freely.

Agustí Centelles

Agustí Centelles

Portrait of Agustí Centelles. Antoni Campañà, 1935-1936. Permanent loan by the Campañà Capella’s Family, 2020. Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.

El Grau de València, 1909 – Barcelona, 1985

 

An indisputable figure of modern photojournalism, he was one of the most universal Catalan photographers, often compared to Robert Capa. His pictures taken behind the lines in Barcelona, and those of the fighting in the Pyrenees, the Aragon front and the Republican refugee camps, are an indispensable testimony to the Civil War.

Online collection

Agustí Centelles
Claudi Carbonell

Claudi Carbonell

Barcelona 1891-1970

 

He was a founding member of the AFC and one of the main representatives of the pictorialist style. He specialized in the bromoil technique applied to portraits and rural and urban landscapes, and he opened his own production workshop. His photographs are small-format, focused above all on Catalonia but also on more exotic places such as North Africa.

Online collection

Claudi Carbonell

Viaje alrededor del mundo (Journey Around the World). Claudi Carbonell, undated. Long-term loan from the Agrupació Fotogràfica de Catalunya, 2003. Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.

Emili Godes

Emili Godes

Barcelona, 1895-1970

 

His most emblematic work is devoted to nature: highly realistic large-format microphotographs, as he called them, of plants, insects and arthropods. These established Emili Godes as one of the major representatives of the New Objectivity in Catalonia, opposed to the prevailing pictorialism of the time. He also worked professionally in the world of advertising and the cinema.

Online collection

Emili Godes
Joan Porqueras

Joan Porqueras

Barcelona, 1899-1969

 

Unlike his contemporaries, his work focused on urban compositions. Outstanding among them are the images always with the human element as a point of reference, with experimental shots and light effects, fog, mist and shadows, that give the city an unreal, mysterious air. During the 1920s and 30s he contributed to specialist magazines like Art de la Llum, and won prizes in several international competitions.

Online collection

Joan Porqueras

Les goudronneurs (The Tar Roofers). Joan Porqueras, 1931. Permanent loan by the Agrupació Fotogràfica de Catalunya, 2003. Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.

Joaquim Pla

Joaquim Pla Janini

Tarragona, 1879 – Barcelona, 1970

 

A doctor by profession, in 1903 he retired early to devote himself to his passion for photography. Dr Pla Janini was one of the greatest exponents of Catalan pictorialism. With an extraordinary mastery of pigment printing techniques, most of his photographic output, on subjects such as the family, religion, or still-lifes, was done in bromoils, bromoil transfers and fressons.

Online collection

Joaquim Pla
Marcel Giró

Marcel Giró

Badalona, 1912 – Mira-sol, 2011

 

At the start of the Civil War, he went into exile in France and later Brazil, where he turned his youthful hobby into his profession and opened his own photographic studio in São Paulo. He was one of that country’s most important photographers and one of the driving forces behind the São Paulo School. As well as in the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, his work is currently in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the MoMA in New York and the São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP).

Online collection

Joan Porqueras
Otho Lloyd

Otho Lloyd

London, 1885 – Barcelona, 1973

 

He trained as a painter at the height of the European avant-garde boom, and in 1916 he moved to Barcelona with his wife, the artist Olga Sacharoff. The recognition that he never received as a painter, he was to obtain with photography, to which he devoted himself completely from 1940 to 1950. His photographs of still-lifes, female nudes, portraits and landscapes play with the light through a very personal and intimist gaze.

Online collection

Joaquim Pla
Pere Català

Pere Català

Valls, 1889 – Barcelona, 1971

 

His artistic restlessness focused on the theoretical aspects of photography, above all industrial and advertising photography, of which he was the pioneer in Catalonia. Interested particularly in the psychological theories of advertising, he regularly contributed to magazines such as Ford, Nova Ibèria and Art de la Llum and he took part in conferences, courses and symposia. His communicative work made him one of the most influential voices in advertising and political propaganda.

Online collection

Joan Porqueras
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«Not only painters tell lies», the bromoil transfer technique

Developing on silver bromide paper, bleaching, dyeing with oily pigments, cleaning, pressing and finally transferring the image to watercolour paper: intervening on a photograph to create a unique work.

A honeymoon in search of the New Objectivity

December 1933. Campañà married Maria Capella (Barcelona, 1906-1999) and suggested going to Munich for their honeymoon. The city was covered in snow and it was not really a very romantic trip. Campañà wanted to see Nazi Germany with his own eyes and to attend courses given by the photographer and filmmaker Willy Zielke. At the Bavarian National School of Photography he came into contact with the new aesthetic trends in avant-garde photography, New Objectivity and New Vision. That honeymoon was a point of inflexion in his artistic output.

Nach Berlin

Nach Berlin

Nach Berlin

Nach Berlin Antoni Campañà, 1933. Gelatine and silver on baryta-coated paper. Arxiu Campañà

Valancennes

Valancennes

Sense títol [Valancennes]

Untitled [Valancennes]. Antoni Campañà, 1933. Gelatine and silver, modern print 2021. Arxiu Campañà

Un policia prussià

A Prussian policeman

Un policia prussià

Untitled [A Prussian policeman bends down to talk to a citizen]. Antoni Campañà, 1933. Gelatine and silver, modern print 2021. Arxiu Campañà

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«Happy New Year 1936»

This is the message on a Christmas card that the Campañà family still has. 1936 was unquestionably the photographer’s most prolific year, when he unwittingly immortalized the last moments of a world about to vanish.

That year he travelled around Spain, insatiably photographing everything that was going on around him: life in the rural villages of Andalusia and Aragon, Holy Week in Seville, the Patum festival in Berga, the castellers in Vilafranca, motor racing, election campaigns and the return to Barcelona of President Companys, or the legendary save goalkeeper Ricardo Zamora made in the last Republican cup final, just a month before war broke out. More than a happy year, it would be a year of contrasts.

Retorn de Lluís Companys

Return of Lluís Companys

Untitled [Return of Lluís Companys]. Antoni Campañà, 1st of March 1936. Gelatine and silver on baryta-coated paper. Arxiu Campañà

Retorn de Lluís Companys
Aturada Ricardo Zamora

Ricardo Zamora’s save

Aturada Ricardo Zamora

Untitled [Ricardo Zamora’s save]. Final Copa de la República, València. Antoni Campañà, 21st of July 1936. Gelatine and silver, modern print 2021. Arxiu Campañà

Castellers de Vilafranca del Penedès

Castellers de Vilafranca del Penedès

Castellers de Vilafranca del Penedès

Untitled [Castellers de Vilafranca del Penedès]. Antoni Campañà, May 1936. Gelatine and silver, modern print 2021. Arxiu Campañà

Vestuari FC Barcelona

FC Barcelona changing room

Vestuari FC Barcelona

Untitled [FC Barcelona changing room]. Antoni Campañà, 1936. Gelatine and silver, modern print 2021. Arxiu Campañà.

Campanya electoral del Front Català d’Ordre

Election campaign of Front Català d’Ordre

Campanya electoral del Front Català d’Ordre

Untitled [Election campaign of Front Català d’Ordre]. Antoni Campañà, February 1936. Gelatine and silver, modern print 2021.

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1936 - 1939

The red
box

The Civil War shut up in a box for 80 years. Negatives, deliberately hidden, that Campañà did not even want to show his children.

As a wartime photojournalist, his camera became a therapeutic tool for processing the trauma. Instead of closing his eyes to the new reality, he opened them wider than ever, photographing dead bodies, bombing raids, barricades and destruction. All with the same humanity and the same aesthetic criteria, hiding nothing, with no ideological intent. It was not equidistance, it was a biological urge to capture the instant, no matter which flag was flying. Handling the images would come later, and Campañà was to become a victim of the captions. This may be the reason for the red box.

Mirrors of memory and forgetfulness

The tense image

A refugee from Malaga holding her child in her arms, having just arrived in Barcelona in 1937. Campañà’s photograph would be used and reworked by the German photomontage artist John Heartfield (Berlin, 1891-1968), who turned the Montjuïc Stadium into the ruined buildings after Gernika was bombed. The same fear, the same uncertainty, the same desperation manipulated in space and time. Universality distorted.

Untitled [Refugees from Malaga in Montjuïc stadium], February 1937. Arxiu Campañà.

Die Volks-Illustrierte [Photomontage by John Heartfield from a photography by Campañà]. Praga, 2 July 1937. Archivo Lafuente.

1939 - 1989

Contradictions
of a century

After the war, the search for beauty lost all meaning. Campañà settled down to live life and chose a commercial and aesthetic escape: sports, tourism, FC Barcelona, the construction of the Camp Nou and SEAT cars.

In 1952 he created a company with Joan Andreu Puig Farran, the first in Spain to produce full-colour holiday postcards. Their pictures of beaches and mountains were sent all over the world.

And, all the while, the red box was still there, locked up in the garage in Sant Cugat, hiding the endless war and all the contradictions of the 20th century. When it was opened, Campañà’s entire life, full of expansions and closures, was revealed.

A new gaze for a new age

From 1950 to 1970, Campañà intensely portrayed the economic, sociological and urbanistic changes taking place all over Catalonia and Spain. It is the artist’s third gaze, closing the circle of photographic genres.

Construcció del Camp Nou

Construction of the Camp Nou stadium

Construcció del Camp Nou

Untitled [Construction of the Camp Nou stadium] Barcelona. Antoni Campañà, 1955-1956. Gelatine and silver, modern print 2021. Arxiu Campañà.

Aficionats a l’Estadi del FC Barcelona de les Corts

Football supporters at FC Barcelona’s Les Corts stadium

Aficionats a l’Estadi del FC Barcelona de les Corts

Untitled [Football supporters at FC Barcelona’s Les Corts stadium]. Antoni Campañà, 1940 -1950. Gelatine and silver, modern print 2021. Arxiu Campañà.

Jugadors del FC Barcelona de les Corts

FC Barcelona football players

Jugadors del FC Barcelona de les Corts

Untitled [FC Barcelona football players]. Antoni Campañà, 1943-1944. Gelatine and silver. Arxiu Campañà.
Top left to right: José Valle, Mariano Martín and José Bravo; below: Josep Riba and Francesc Betancourt Cocinero.

La Molina, Cerdanya

La Molina, Cerdanya

La Molina, Cerdanya

Untitled [La Molina, Cerdanya]. Antoni Campañà, 1944. Digitized image of 35 mm negative. Arxiu Campañà.

Modernitat mecànica i arquitectònica

Mechanical and architectural modernity

Modernitat mecànica i arquitectònica

Untitled [Mechanical and architectural modernity]. Antoni Campañà, 1960-1964. Digitized image of 6 x 6 cm negative. Arxiu Campañà.

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CYP colour postcards

CYP (Campañà y Puig Farran) was the acronym used for the prosperous postcard business with its office in Carrer Pelai in Barcelona. Production was immense – yet another photographic expansion, now in colour, of a complete photographer.

Postals en color CYP 01
Postals en color CYP
Postals en color CYP 02
Postals en color CYP
Postals en color CYP 03
Postals en color CYP
Postals en color CYP 04
Postals en color CYP
Postals en color CYP 05
Postals en color CYP
Postals en color CYP 06
Postals en color CYP
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