Catalans uncovered

  • Catalans. Retrats [Catalans. Portraits]
  • Author: Antoni Bernad
  • Barcelona City Council
  • Barcelona, 2015
  • 224 pages

He will ultimately capture us as participants from Antoni Bernad’s subjective point of view, which shows us from an unexpected angle, as unknown individuals.

Catalans. Retrats is a collection from the works of the photographer Antoni Bernad, who caught snapshots of people from all walks of Catalan life over a period of three decades. This is a personal selection made by Bernad himself, applying aesthetic criteria, to gather together what he himself considers the best of his work as a portraitist.

Following an exhaustive examination of his archives, Antoni Bernad then made a selection of portraits of famous and unknown people, guided strictly by aesthetic criteria, as he himself remarks in the preface. This is a highly original book, heterogeneous and full of different characters who are compared and sometimes unrecognisable from Bernad’s interpretation of them. As Enric Vila points out in his introduction to the book, “this volume summarises a time and a country. Famous Catalans with a grey presence and anonymous Catalans with an electrifying power”.

Figures portrayed in the book include Josep Pla and Mercè Rodoreda, artists and models such as Núria Espert and Teresa Gimpera, architects and designers such as Federico Correa and Antoni Miró. You may even be amazed by what you find in the portraits of the young and promising Pasqual Maragall, Pep Guardiola, Isabel Clara Simó, Raimon, Juanjo Puigcorbé, Tàpies and Vicky Peña. And we can discover ourselves by taking a journey through the history of the country, from Tarradellas to Mas, from Narcís Serra to Xavier Trias, whom Bernad (re)presents in a personal portrait regarding new technologies.

And that is because Bernad’s work ethic goes beyond the moment he took his portrait in. He stands out, on the one hand, for his artistic vision of photography and, on the other, for his capacity to discover what is hidden away within every person, behind his or her public image. One of the surprising things about this personal choice is finding a mishmash of photos ranging from 1984 up to the present day and realising that the various eras run along and contrast less than we would expect.

Bernad is regarded as one of the first photographers to have dared to investigate through a completely new path. He moved on from descriptive and neutral photography, which the world of fashion expected from him, to an expressive photography, which intends to capture the essence of the model. He has become a famous portraitist, whose work is considered highly artistic. This is demonstrated by the fact that his works can be found in a variety of museums, from MNAC and MACBA in Barcelona to the Reina Sofía in Madrid.

Bernad turns the essence of photography into art: light and shadows. Showing and hiding, lighting up the parts of the faces that are shown and revealing what his models wish to hide. He has the ability to catch some models off guard and capture others who keep themselves on the defensive.

A photographer who terrifies our secret egos. And Antoni Bernad seems to have a special knack for capturing this ego that we have no wish to show, the shadow that lies behind each personality and which, as Jung would say, makes us complete when we are reconciled to it. He will ultimately capture us as participants from Antoni Bernad’s subjective point of view, which shows us from an unexpected angle, as unknown individuals. And who knows whether some of the faces we find there reflect our own?

Marga Pont

Barcelona Metròpolis Editorial Coordinator

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