With his Leica camera, he immortalised episodes of the Civil War which have gone on to become iconic images. Agustí Centelles (1909-1985) is one of the pioneers of modern photojournalism in Europe
, often compared with Robert Capa.
Born in Valencia, as a child he moved with his family to Barcelona. He learned his trade through the Agrupació Fotogràfica de Catalunya (Photographic Association of Catalonia) and worked as a photojournalist in newspapers such as El día gráfico
, La Humanitat
, Diario de Barcelona
, La Publicitat
and La Vanguardia
In the morning of 19th July, 1936, Centelles was the first photojournalist from Barcelona to come out into the street to document the events of the fascist uprising and the popular response
. His aim was to photograph the councils of war, the formation of the militias, the columns leaving for the front, as well as the Battle of Teruel and the activity on the Aragon front
. From there, he directed the Photographic Services Unit of the Eastern Army (
1937). Shortly after, he was commissioned by the Photographic Office of Special State Department for Information
(Departament Especial d'Informació de l'Estat), where he worked with the propaganda Commissioner of the Government, Jaume Miravitlles, and the photographers Salvador Pujol and Pere Català i Roca.
After the Republican defeat, he was forced into exile in France where, like many other refugees, he was interned in concentration camps: first at Argelès and after at Bram. But his vocation as a chronicler did not dessert him. There, with Salvador Pujol, he created a clandestine photographic laboratory and documented the living conditions of the refugees
Until the end of the Franco regime, he was unable to publicise his work. In 1976, he retrieved the file that he had left hidden in Carcassonne 32 years before, which consisted of about 4,000 negatives from the Second Republic, the Spanish Civil war and the exile
. In 1978, he had his first exhibition with the recovered material: Imatges d’un reporter
(Images of a Reporter). Today, these photographs have become one of the main sources of graphical information of the contemporary history of Spain.
In 2009, in the midst of a great controversy, the sons of Agustí Centelles sold his father's archive to the Ministry of Culture and it is currently housed in the Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica
(Historical Memory Documentary Centre) in Salamanca. Even so, the Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona (Photographic Archive of Barcelona) and MNAC
(National Museum of Catalan Art) also hold copies from the period and positives made by the photographer.