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Home Culture Colita’s posthumous exhibition recovers her photographs from an iconic book of feminism in the Transition | Culture

Colita’s posthumous exhibition recovers her photographs from an iconic book of feminism in the Transition | Culture

by News Room
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Barcelona, ​​1974. Two neighbors meet at the bakery.

—Hey, you have a lot of photos of women, right?

-Many! My archive is full of photos of women. I always look at them.

—And why don’t we make a book?


The two acquaintances were the photographer Isabel Steva Hernández, colitis, and the writer Maria Aurèlia Capmany, left-wing and feminist women at a time when that statement usually brought with it gross insults. The photobook that emerged from that meeting, made with four hands and in sessions in which they cut and pasted texts and images, was called Antifemina, published in 1977 by Editora Nacional. However, with the burrs of late Francoism, the publisher itself withdrew it months later as it was considered subversive. That publication was not republished until 2021, thanks to the Barcelona City Council and the Terranova publishing house, and now it has become a photography exhibition for the first time, although its authors are no longer alive to see it. Capmany died in 1991 and Colita, unexpectedly, on December 31, at the age of 83, when he was precisely preparing this exhibition, which can be seen until May 5 at the Círculo de Bellas Artes, in Madrid, and which has the collaboration of the cultural company La Fábrica.

For the organizers of the exhibition, titled like that volume, Antifemina It was the first feminist graphic book of the Transition, a cult work with images that are largely still relevant today. From the publication, 94 images have been chosen from the 176 it contains. More fragments of Capmany’s texts (“never have my photos been so well accompanied,” Colita would say), to draw a panoramic view of women in the final stage of Franco’s regime, a woman subjugated in an openly sexist society.

“It is a critical vision of reality, but Colita portrayed these women with affection, with humanism,” explained the curator of Antifemina, Francesc Polop, her friend and director of the Colita Archive. Polop has specified that almost all of these photos—taken between 1960 and 1976—“were not taken for the purpose of the book, but were already in Colita’s archive.”

Thus we see older women, images of mourning bodies who go to mass and convey their loneliness, they have been isolated from society “they are anti-feminine, hence the title of the book”; others are young on her wedding day (“they were photos that Colita took of her friends, because they were all getting married,” Polop added during the tour with the press). In this series there is an example of the photographer’s irony when she portrays a married couple with their backs turned between the walls of a cemetery. There is also the working woman, “when the representation of work was the man and the woman had the household chores, but it was not considered work.” They are women in factories, with sad looks, or repairing fishing nets.

On the route there is also room for nuns hanging clothes, old ladies in cemeteries, prostitutes from Barcelona’s Chinatown, gypsies in the misery of the Somorrostro neighborhood and beautiful and elegant models. “A contact with reality,” in the words of Capmany, “because nothing is more stimulating, corrosive and revolutionary than reality.”

Polop, who became emotional a couple of times during the presentation, mentioned “how excited Colita was about this exhibition, for which she had made the selection of images”, and which has finally become a posthumous tribute. With her he worked on the previous process of locating and restoring the original negatives for two years. She also recalled that Colita said that a photographer’s archive should not be “a mausoleum, but rather that it had to be disseminated,” which is why she indicated that there is material for future exhibitions. In her intervention she defined Colita and Capmany as “two vindictive women, who in a difficult time set out to be free.”

Colita, portrayed in her archive in 2021.Francis Polop

In addition to the legacy that Polop keeps, “around 30% of Colita’s work,” he specified, the rest is distributed in the National Archive of Catalonia, the Municipal Archive of Barcelona, ​​the Filmoteca de Catalunya (“which made a photo fixed in films”), the archive of the Party of Socialists of Catalonia (PSC), in which he was a member; and the Reina Sofía Museum, in Madrid, among other institutions.

Self-declared “photojournalist” and, with humor, “street dog”, Isabel Steva has left, above all, a glimpse of the cultural life of Barcelona through the so-called divine left, the left-wing bourgeoisie of the Catalan capital. Rebellious, with temperament, Colita learned photographic technique from masters such as Oriol Maspons, who she introduced to Xavier Miserachs, with whom he began as an assistant in 1961. With them he toured Barcelona and got closer to its people. In parallel, he created a gallery of portraits of culture in Barcelona. He worked for numerous magazines, published more than seventy books and starred in more than forty exhibitions. When she was retired, she was awarded the National Photography Award in 2014, which she rejected due to the policy towards culture of the PP, then in Government.

Portrait of Maria Aurèlia Capmany taken by Colita in 1978.Colita Photography Archive

The Círculo exhibition was extended in an event held shortly after at the Cervantes Institute, where Polop, accompanied by the writer and journalist Maruja Torres, a friend of Colita, deposited a legacy that was expected to have been delivered by today’s honoree. It is, precisely, a copy of the reissue of Antifemina and one of the photographer’s most important books, Lights and shadows of flamencowhich Lumen published in 1975 with its images and texts by the poet José Manuel Caballero Bonald.

The director of Cervantes, Luis García Montero, highlighted that Colita “taught us to look at reality knowing that in a democracy freedom is decisive.” Maruja Torres has highlighted that “her work is still very much alive.” And the final surprise of the legacy has arrived in a small box from which Polop has taken out a tiny camera, a photo of Colita dressed as a clown, some toy glasses, a bow tie and a false nose. Small symbols of who she said about her way of approaching the profession of photographer: “I have always been a very serious clown.”

The director of the Colita Archive, Francesc Polop, and the writer Maruja Torres, with a box from the photographer Colita of her ‘in memoriam’ legacy at the Cervantes Institute, this Thursday, in Madrid.Sergio Pérez (EFE)

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