Son of Pere Català i Pic, a pioneer of avant-garde photography in Catalonia, Francesc Català Roca is considered the master of Catalan documentary photography. Learning his trade within the family, he opened his own studio in 1947 and began making street photography for editorial assignments. Thereafter, he worked continuously producing photographs for publications such as Destino, Gaceta Ilustrada and La Vanguardia. This was to be accompanied by studio work, illustrating artists’ books in collaboration with renowned architects, sculptors and painters such as Josep M. Sert, Eduardo Chillida and Joan Miró, books about the history of Catalan art and documentary photography on the real Spain.

As a neo-realist photographer, Català Roca’s took risks, looking for unusual and unconventional viewpoints, playing with the plastic strength of shadows and contrasts, and always focusing on the human element. His technical skill was matched by a great ability to relate to the people he portrayed. His photography acts as a witness to a time when the country had one foot in the hardest era of the Franco regime and the other in what is known as the period of ‘developmentalism’.

Following his first solo exhibition in 1953 at Sala Caralt, Barcelona, Català Roca exhibited extensively in parallel with his activity as a book illustrator, publishing numerous titles. Retrospective exhibitions of his work include those held at the Fundació Joan Miró (2000), La Pedrera, Barcelona (2012) and the Círculo de Bellas Artes, Madrid (2013).

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Mark Wigley