Humberto Rivas's photographic archive becomes the property of the City Council

20/02/2024 - 11:00 h

Ajuntament de Barcelona

He was one of the most outstanding names in contemporary photography and had a long relationship with the city.


Humberto Rivas was born in Buenos Aires in 1937, but his career is intimately linked to Barcelona, the city that has welcomed him since 1976 along with his partner, the artist María Helguera (pictured, in a photograph from 1978), and his family. Many years later, the photographer has acquired the status of a master of contemporary art, which is why Barcelona City Council has now acquired the artist’s photographic archive, which will be deposited in the Barcelona Photographic Archive.

Rivas arrived in Barcelona, escaping from the Argentine dictatorship, and set up his first advertising photography studio at a time when the country was undergoing the Transition and the photographic scene was experimenting. In this context, Humberto Rivas’s images, of an objective nature, quickly established themselves on the city scene and his portraits were very well received by the photographers of the time. The artist won outstanding awards: from the National Photography Prize in 1997 to the Barcelona City Council Plastic Arts Prize (1997) and the Gold Medal for Artistic Merit, which was awarded to him a few days before his death in 2009.

With a remarkable pedagogical vision, Humberto Rivas worked in educational centres in the city related to photography such as the Can Basté Civic Centre, hence the square behind the building is now named after him. It is fair to say that his presence in Barcelona contributed significantly to the renewal of the photographic language, looking at reality with an avant-garde gaze and without the need to limit himself strictly to documentary photography.

A testimony of an era, his work includes many landscapes (some of which, like those in the Huellas series, show the traces of the Spanish Civil War) in which he speaks of absences and presences of  decadent and dilapidated urban spaces.

In addition, however, he made many portraits. And to the photographs of personalities linked to Catalan politics and culture, which today form the representation of an era in the history of Catalonia, he added many photographs of anonymous or directly marginal people who speak of another Barcelona, beyond the official one. This is the case of the portrait he took of Violeta la Burra in 1978 (pictured), which is one of the author’s best known.

All these images are part of the collection that the City Council has just acquired, which includes 23. 193 negatives, plates and slides of different sizes, as well as contacts; six sets of photomaps; two hundred original prints made by Humberto Rivas representing the themes that characterise the author’s work (from well-known characters to still lifes and urban landscapes at night and during the day…) and a lot of documentation. The Arxiu Fotogràfic, where part of the collection is already provisionally conserved, will now be responsible for conserving and promoting Humberto Rivas‘s work and facilitating its study.