Joana Biarnés, total commitment to photojournalism
Joana Biarnés presents a selection of 90 photos from her extensive photographic archive which portray post-Civil War Spain from a static and highly masculinized perspective at an exhibition at Palau Robert in Barcelona. The photos correspond to the time when Joana Biarnés was working for the evening newspaper Pueblo from 1963 to 1973.
The exhibition ‘Joana Biarnés. A contracorrent’ (against the flow), curated by photographer Chema Conesa and produced by cultural promotors La Fábrica with the support of the Photographic Social Vision Foundation, will be open from 27 October to 2 April 2018 in Rooms 1 and 2.
Joana Biarnés (Terrassa, 1935) was the first female photojournalist in Catalonia and Spain and courageously went ‘against the flow’ at a time of monolithic thinking. Her photographic legacy, which ranges from sport to social reportage, including accidents and catastrophes, portrays a key moment in the twentieth century: the years when Spain was a sad and impoverished place under the yoke of the Franco dictatorship and the early days of democracy with its aspirations of freedom and the evolution of a society that was recovering its spirit. The photographic lens of Joana Biarnés captured this changing society and its most representative people in natural and surprising situations.
The first female photojournalist
‘A contracorrent’ might refer not only to the title of the exhibition but also to the spirit that defined Joana Biarnés’ way of life: a passionate advocate of a profession that, in her times, was practised only by men. She managed to fight against every possible adversity: at football matches, where she was jeered at for being a woman and wearing a skirt, which more than once caused her to be ejected from the stadium; managing to get a ticket on the aeroplane flying the Beatles to Barcelona, secreting herself in the service lift up to the floor where the group was staying in the Hotel Avinguda Palace, and managing to gain entrance to their suite where Ringo Starr let her in and she spent three hours with the boys from the band.
Chema Conesa, a photographer and curator of the exhibition, highlights the fact that Joana Biarnés was totally committed to photojournalism. According to Conesa, ‘She believed in the need to produce journalism in an absolutely honest way. She used to get very close to her subjects, talking to them and in some way inveigling herself into their world. It was almost impossible to resist her, to say no to such an approachable woman’.
On the subject of the feminine viewpoint in photography, Chema Conesa explains that ‘it was something new in the media at that time. She sought out the detail that could best define the news item, and that detail, almost always, was absolutely feminine’.
Silvia Omedes, director of the Photographic Social Vision Foundation and Joana Biarnés’ representative, contends that ‘her documentarian’s spirit, Joana’s natural curiosity, can be seen in almost all her work, from portraits of famous names through to her work in the world of fashion. The knowing eyes of Joana Biarnés were always alert to the details and gestures of ordinary people, like a scrupulous observer of social reality.
Joan Manuel Serrat. Cercedilla (Madrid), 1969
Reportage condensed in a photo
The photographic language of Joana Biarnés followed the maxim she learned from her father: ‘all reporting needs to be condensed in the photo’, and that is what she did. From behind the lens she managed to capture the essence of famous names, revealing their most intimate side: Lola Flores, Marisol, Massiel, Orson Welles, Rocío Durcal, Rocío Jurado and Raphael, amongst others; turning the viewer into a witness of completely natural attitudes, forgetting about the presence of the camera. Other celebrities who fell for her charisma include Yul Brynner, Jack Lemmon, Clint Eastwood and Roman Polanski.
She photographed internationally acclaimed artists such as Dalí and Buñuel; she also took stunning photos that today could well be worthy of a World Press Photo award, such as the dramatic images of the floods of 1962 in the Vallès region, or traditionalist reportages of a Spain that was timidly opening up to freedom, taking everyday shots of young hippies in Ibiza alongside elderly woman clad all in black.
She had an astute and spontaneous photographic eye that also managed to win the trust and respect of all her sitters. A prime example is her image of Joan Manuel Serrat taking a midday nap in front of the television test card, or the shot of the Bosé clan at lunch, forgetting they were even being photographed.
In 1985 she decided to leave photojournalism, disheartened by the new direction in which journalism was heading with the arrival of the paparazzi, and moved to Ibiza to enjoy another of her passions: gastronomy. She opened Casa Joana in Ibiza and turned it into a must-go restaurant and meeting point for celebrities such as Julio Iglesias, Juan de Borbón and Juan María Arzak, amongst others. After more than 20 years in the restaurant business she retired and moved to Viladecavalls, where she witnessed how her forgotten photographic archive was starting to be acclaimed just when she was least expecting it.
Her rediscovery started when Terrassa-born photographer Cristobal Castro was commissioned to prepare an exhibition in Terrassa on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the terrible Vallès floods; he contacted Joana Biarnés and started unearthing all the negatives and vintage copies that she had kept at home. In 2014, journalist Jordi Rovira and director Óscar Moreno began filming a documentary on her life, entitled Joana Biarnés. Una entre tots, which was released in 2015. Later on, the publishing house La Fábrica published a PhotoBolsillo (photography album) dedicated to Joana Biarnés. In 2017, the exhibition ‘Joana Biarnés. A contracorrent’ embarked on its travels; having opened in Madrid as part of PhotoEspaña and then moving to Zaragoza, it now comes to Barcelona, to Palau Robert.
Joana Biarnés’s legacy is all this and more, offering a vivid portrait of Spain as it once was, forming part of our most recent history.
L’actor Roger Moore, “El Santo”, envoltat de fans durant el rodatge d’un anunci publicitari per a Coñac 103. Barcelona, 1967
Lucia Bosé, caracteritzada com a George Sand, durant el rodatge d’Un invierno en Mallorca, de Jaime Camino. Mallorca, 1969
The book Joana Biarnés. Shooting from the heart
The book Joana Biarnés. Shooting from the heart
To coincide with the opening of the exhibition, we are presenting the book Joana Biarnés. Shooting from the heart published by the Photographic Social Vision Foundation and Blume, with the support of the Government of Catalonia, Barcelona Provincial Council, Madrid City Council, Terrassa City Council and REBEL·LAB PHOTO Laboratories. The book features prologues by photographer and journalist Chema Conesa, by journalist and writer Natalia Figueroa, texts in the first person by Joana Biarnés talking about her photos and anecdotes from her life, and a comprehensive biography by journalist Jordi Rovira.
This is the definitive publication that comprehensively covers the legacy of the country’s first female photojournalist, not only showcasing her huge archive, which has finally seen the light, but also revealing the full and exciting life of an extraordinary woman and professional.
Sessió fotogràfica amb barrets op art dissenyats pel modista Antonio Nieto. Madrid, 1967
Joana Biarnés. A Contracorrent
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