In the eighties and nineties, reflections on contemporary photography triggered a heated and controversial debate that mainly revolved around the status of photography as an artistic medium within the contemporary art scene, although it also touched on with other, more practical matters that had apparently been superseded in other disciplines. Given this situation, the heritage and collecting of photography was – and remains – an open debate.

The exhibition Fragments. Proposal for a contemporary photographic collection was a showcase for one of the few examples of private photographic collections in Spain. In terms of so-called alternative media, the Rafael Tous collection comprises the most important group of works from the Catalan avant-gardes in the period from the sixties to the present, with a particular focus on photography in the broadest sense.

The fifteen artists who participated in the exhibition – including Francesc Abad, Ana Busto, Mabel Palacín and Marc Vilaplana, Jorge Ribalta, Andrés Serrano, Cindy Sherman and Valentín Vallhonrat – illustrated the enormous diversity that photography makes possible. They also highlighted the extent to which photography is an ideal medium for exploring, formulating and condemning urgent social issues.

While photographs do not have the monopoly on images as proof, on forceful visual messages or on radical ways of presenting issues, it is nonetheless true that these characteristics are most pertinently found in the realm of photography. It would seem that the visual arts have understood that our society is immersed in a flood of images that offer the full gamut of options, from utopias of contentment to the disenchantment of adversities. And this familiar visual context provides a springboard for many artistic endeavours involving photography today.