"I discovered the Barrio Chino in 1958, I understood that it was my world. I was fascinated by its diversity and its social richness. (...) I literally got sucked in by the human quality of these characters. (...) Every weekend, for more than two years Joan Colom explored the 'bas-fonds' of Barcelona, the Raval neighbourhood that is known today as the 'Barrio Chino'. Concerned with remaining discreet and breaking with the aesthetic traditions of his elders, he began by photographing without aiming the camera. Only whilst printing would he decide on the precise frame for each image. He saw himself as an impassioned witness of a social theatre and his work as a search for authentic "images that touch me".
Today, the 'imaginaire' of urban life of the Barrio Chino is rooted in Colom's images. His work was praised early on by personalities, such as Ramon Massats and Joseph Maria Casademont who wrote in 1961: "with Joan Colom, we are entering a new phase of our history of photography." In these images, the modernist avantgarde of the 50s is interwined with the "dark" and pessimistic tradition of Spain during the Franco era." (publisher's note)
Review/about the photographer (*1921):
"Joan Colom published his series on Barcelona’s Chinatown in the magazine AFAL (1962) with an autobiography: “Age: 40. Profession: Accountant. Hobbies: Apart from photography, obviously, none.” Of his method, Colom said: “I have decided to only work with subjects that I have predetermined.” Oriol Maspons adds the technical details: “Everything was taken using a Leica M2, shot from the hip without framing or focusing. A real photographer’s work. More than a year on the same subject.” The series had been exhibited with some success (and controversy) at the Sala Aixelá in Barcelona the previous year, under the title El carrer (The Street). In 1964 it was finally published by Lumen in one of the finest photo-books in their Palabra e Imagen collection, “Izas, rabizas y colipoterras”, designed by Oscar Tusquets and Cristian Cirici. Camilo José Cela contributed a text based around Colom’s (surreptitious but captionless) photos that was full of broad, cruel humour, pitilessly mocking the women, photographed by Colom and judged by Cela. Somewhat ahead of her time, one of the women actually sued the photographer, the only result of which was the photo-book’s withdrawal from bookshops, and Colom’s retirement from photography for years. From the 1980s onwards public obscurity became public recognition, which has continued to grow." (Horacio Fernández)
Joan Colom is Spanish (Catalan) photographer from Barcelona; he started taking street pictures in the 'red lights' district El Barrio Chino (i.e. Chinatown, now 'Raval') at the age of 37.
He had a day time job in accounting and use to shoot during weekends.
I love his style partially because of my addiction to shooting candids "from the hip". Almost all of his images from 1958 to 1964 were shot 'clandestine'; he did this because he tried to capture something very elusive: the glances, gestures, grimaces, poses, all king of people-to people interactions. He wanted for his pictures to be emotional and alive, to capture the life in its moments and let it live in the photographic form forever. - And he succeeded.
I do not know any other photographer of the time so dedicated to this idea of capturing moments of life as Joan Colom was.
Rafal Colom fotografierte in den 50er Jahren in Spaniens Metropole Barcelona. Dort interessierte ihn das Rotlichtviertel 'Barrio Chino' (heute 'Raval' genannt) so sehr, dass er mit seiner Leica M2 zwei Jahre lang jedes Wochenende dort verbrachte und in dem Text, den er zu den veröffentlichten Bildern hinzufügte, es habe keine anderen Hobbies als die Fotografie.