The exhibition “Brangulí. Barcelona 1909-1945”, produced by the Fundación Telefónica in collaboration with the Arxiu Nacional de Catalunya, is devoted to the work of Barcelona-born Josep Brangulí, a pioneer in photojournalism and the author of some of the best images reflecting the major social, urban and industrial transformations to affect Barcelona in the long period of change and conflict between 1909 and 1945. The show is the first retrospective of Brangulí’s work and comprises some 300 photographs and original printed matter of the time.
The exhibition, curated by the photographers Valentín Vallhonrat and Rafael Levenfeld, follows the thematic structure of the Josep Brangulí archive and reflects the diversity and the thematic approach of the photographer’s work, centring on areas such as Tragic Week, Artisans’ workshops, Society before the Republic, Society 1931–1936, Concrete ship building, Fire-fighters, Boxing, the Royal family at the 1929 Universal Exhibition, Schools, Industrial architecture, Fira de Barcelona trade fair, Hospitals, the Exchange of World War II prisoners, Museums, Nocturnes, Urban landscape, the Beach, the Port, the Republic, Somorrostro, the Displacement of workers to Germany, Trams, War and the Post-war years.
In addition to these themes, which comprised the exhibition that ran at the Fundación Telefónica in Madrid until 27 March, the show at the CCCB also includes eight photographs of the old Casa de la Caritat almshouse, today occupied by the CCCB.
The retrospective Brangulí exhibition presents the gaze of a photographer who captured political life, focusing on its leaders and popular mobilizations, with reportages like the one about Tragic Week (1909) and others about the Second Republic or the exchange of World War II prisoners in the port of Barcelona (1944).
Brangulí also showed other aspects of society, with reportages about boxing, beaches and events of every kind. His photographs recorded commercial life, too, with series about workshops, trades, companies and Barcelona’s trade fair. With his work, he documented major public and private works that transformed and modernized the city’s urban planning landscape (such as the construction of Via Laietana) and portrayed the building of new industries and the social and labour situation of the time. In conclusion, Brangulí’s photographs are much more than documentary photography; they are a sociological record of the efforts of a society to advance and leave behind the 19th century.
According to the exhibition curators, “Brangulí, who survived all the political vicissitudes of his times, accompanied the city in which he lived with an eye to the changes taking place, its transformations, its people and their activities. He used his profession to keep up with the pace of urban metamorphosis, turning his work as a photographer—almost like a conjurer—into an agency, an archive or whatever it took to carry on working his magic”.
Josep Brangulí was the first in a line of photographers, in which he was joined by his sons, Joaquim and Xavier, the three of them working together under a single name. The archive was purchased from the Brangulí family by the Generalitat in 1992 and deposited in the Arxiu Nacional de Catalunya. The Archive contains almost a million negatives signed by the name Brangulí, of which approximately half a million can be attributed to Josep. It also contains miscellaneous publications and materials of the time.