Leopoldo Pomés and the Barcelona of the crowd

The artist Leopoldo Pomés has just been awarded with the 2018 National Photography Prize, given by the Ministry of Culture and Sports for his "contribution to the history of the image in Spain and his career, linked to the beginning of the artistic avant-garde of the group Dau al Set and AFAL, and always committed to modernity. Leopoldo Pomés has participated in the configuration of our collective worldview, introducing a new photographic language into advertising, with a renewed look at society of his time".

“There are some secrets which do not permit themselves to be told”, stated E. A. Poe in his famous story The Man of the Crowd. Leopoldo Pomés (Barcelona, ​​1931) explained at a retrospective exhibition of his work, in 2006: “I do not want the photo to end in an anecdotic gesture of complicity. Only when the mystery arises is when I feel good about photography, about the painting or whatever”. Pomés, who has just been awarded with the 2018 National Photography Prize, given by the Ministry of Culture and Sports, is an artist who always shot his work in the midst of modern life, always looking for that individual mystery that sometimes arises among the crowds.

Leopoldo Pomés has been and is one of our great flâneurs, one of the great painters (that is: photographer, designer, filmmaker, speaker, etc.) of Modernity.

When did Barcelona enter Modernity? Or, maybe we should ask: when did Modernity enter Barcelona? We could surely look at the last third of the nineteenth century, where, once the walls that surrounded the old city were demolished, Passeig de Gràcia became this stage-boulevard for the uniform traffic of the crowd, especially when the darkness came. Anyway, modern life manufactures a new man and also a new artist: Baudelaire says, that, for The Painter of Modern Life, ” The crowd is his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes.  His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd.  For the perfect flaneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite”. Leopoldo Pomés has been and is one of our great flâneurs, one of the great painters (that is: photographer, designer, filmmaker, speaker, etc.) of Modernity.

A biographical depiction of Pomés, in the article that the magazine Impresiones devoted to him in 2012, explains that: “Pomés bought his first camera in 1946. In the 1950s he was a member of the Dau al Set avant-garde group that was made up of artists such as the poet Joan Brossa and the painters Tàpies, Ponç and Cuixart. He also came into contact with the photographer Lluís Maria Riera, and it was through these relationships that he completed his artistic training. From1952 onwards, he devoted himself to photography and in 1955 he exhibited his work for the first time at the Laietanes Galleries in Barcelona. He has worked non-stop since then, exhibiting at venues such as the Centro Andaluz de la Fotografía (1995), the Palau de la Virreina (1997), the Círculo de Bellas Artes de Madrid (2001), Paris Photo (2010) and the Fundació Foto Colectania (2012)”.

He also explains that Pomés’ work “can be found in the collections of IVAM, the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), the Fundació Foto Colectania and the Mick Jagger Collection. Alongside photography, Leopoldo Pomés has had a career in advertising and institutional communication, where he has created iconic campaigns that have made him one of the most respected names in the industry”.

In 1961 he founded with Karin Leiz the Studio Pomés, thanks to what he became known as an advertising photographer. He directed the advertising agency Tiempo and is known worldwide for the creation of the Freixenet bubble. He has won first publicity awards at the Venice Biennial and the Cannes Film Festival. In addition, next to Víctor Sagi he directed the opening show of the 1982 World Cup of Soccer in Barcelona. He was also chosen to create the image campaign for the candidature to organize the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

As for his activity in the world of gastronomy, he is the creator of Flash Flash and Il Giardinetto restaurants, the first specialized in omelettes and the second in Italian gastronomy.

Pomés is, at the same time, author or co-author of the photobooks: Les fenêtres (poems by R.M Rilke), R. M., Barcelona, ​​1958; Gaudí: An Architecture of Anticipation, 1967; La muerte en directo, 1978; Barcelona 1957. Barcelona: La Fábrica Editorial y Fundación Foto Colectania, p.160; Teoria i pràctica del Pa amb Tomàquet. Tusquets Editores, p.141. In addition, he is the director of the movie Ensalada Baudelaire (1978).

Leopoldo Pomés, with more than sixty years of professional career in the world of audio-visual creation and advertising, has also been awarded with the Golden Medal for Artistic Merit of the City Council of Barcelona and the Generalitat of Catalonia has awarded him the National Prize for Plastic Arts and the Creu de Sant Jordi.

FLEETING BEAUTY. SOLITUDE. BARCELONA

“A lightning flash… then night! Fleeting beauty
By whose glance I was suddenly reborn”

To a passer-by, Ch. Baudelaire

The jury who recently acknowledged his work with the 2018 National Photography Prize, evaluates Pomés’s “contribution to the history of the image in Spain and his career, linked to the beginning at the artistic avant-garde from the group Dau al Set and AFAL, and always committed to modernity. Leopoldo Pomés has participated in the configuration of our collective worldview, introducing a new photographic language into advertising, with a renewed look at the society of his time”. The gallery owner Michael Hoppen (Impresiones, 2012) acknowledged that “Pomés has explored the annals of his home city through the lens like few others (…). There is a lugubrious calm that seems to drift through much his work. Barcelona, the beautiful Mediterranean city, acts as the perfect backdrop to the stage where Pomés exercises this ability. Teasing characters out of the multitudinous crowds that thronged las Corridas or las Ramblas, Pomés employs his own clear and graphic visual language to his photography. I am entranced by the fluidity and naturalness that he finds in this rhythm. But Pomés also shows us another side. His ability to make illuminating portraits that combine the city is unusual”.

In these portraits, we can often notice loneliness, that strange loneliness that overwhelms the wrinkled sea of ​​the mass, this kind of loneliness that is harshly fought against. Ce grand malheur, de ne pouvoir être seul (« that disgrace, not being able to remain alone ») wrote La Bruyère. What a set of contrasts… mysteries that are only to be revealed by an avid painter of Modernity, such as Leopoldo Pomés, this “lover of universal life” who “enters into the crowd as though it were an immense reservoir of electrical energy (…) as a mirror as as vast as the crowd itself; a kaleidoscope gifted with consciousness, responding to each one of its movements and reproducing the multiplicity of life and the flickering grace of all the elements of life” (Ch. Baudelaire).

Featured images:
By order: Leopoldo Pomés. Self-portrait / Nico 2, 1969 / Imagen blanca, 1959 / Elsa, 1971 / Antoni Tapies, 1957 / Imagen, 1969 / Maria Jose, 1973 / La vasquita, 1959 / Pared, 1962 / Eva / Revista Grua, 1957 / Afterworks flash flash Madrid