Joana Biarnés and her fashion anti-photography
“Go wash up!”, they told him. And she did not doubt it: she got into any fregao This is how she managed to be the photojournalist she was: a pioneer. Joana Biarnés (Terrassa, Barcelona, 1935-2018) came to the newsrooms of the media where she worked when there were no women in them, perhaps some editor (few), but no photographer. And so she, opening the way, she forged an important career in which she portrayed Spain from the late fifties until 1984, when she abandoned the profession because she did not like the tabloid paths she was taking. She always sought naturalness and fled from artifice.
Biarnés’s career behind the camera materializes in books, documentaries, exhibitions and, above all, negatives, some 80,000, of which 25,000 have been the base on which it has been built. Joana Biarnes. Madrid / Fashion on the street, the sample that can be seen in the Canal de Isabel II room in the capital from February 28 to July 23. A journey through the fashion photographs that the Catalan woman took from the early sixties until the late seventies, many of which were published in the newspaper Towna generalist medium that came to dedicate a weekly page ―on Wednesdays― to this industry, something unusual outside of fashion magazines and, in large part, thanks to the work of Biarnés, who imprinted his creativity and empathy on the snapshots.
After the moments in which she accompanied her father, also a photographer, to immortalize football matches, where she hardened both in the arts of capturing the precise moment and in the face of the adversities of dealing with the public ―”They called me anything but pretty” , recounted Biarnés―, or with the referees, who often questioned her and had to show her official card where she was perfectly identified: “Juanita Biarnés. Photographer”. And published the report that consecrated her (one of them): the Vallès flood, in September 1962, destroyed her hometown and she, dying of pain, went out to document it. “She would shoot and tears would come to my eyes,” she recounted years later. She arrived in Madrid in 1963 and began to collaborate with Town. The following decade will be plagued by social changes that are inevitably reflected in the clothing of the Spanish, rather the Spanish women, and that she will portray.
“Daughters no longer want to go to the same dressmakers as their mothers”, summarizes Josep Casamartina i Parassols, curator of the exhibition. It goes from haute couture to ready-to-wear, from order to ease and freshness, from salons to the street, from designs by Asunción Bastida, Antonio Nieto or Lino (Lino García) to those of small boutiques. From Carmen Polo, Franco’s wife; Carmen Franco, daughter of the dictator; and Carmen Martínez-Bordiú, his granddaughter, sitting in the front row of a parade, as can be seen in one of the photos; to a group of models in the heart of Madrid’s Gran Vía. He shows them next to passers-by, chairs and tables from the terraces piled up on the sidewalk, and with the large posters of the Capitol cinema in the background. Biarnés, as the American photographer Richard Avedon had already done in the fifties, takes the models out of the studios and with this he portrays the streets of the capital: not only the central ones, but also the periphery, cranes, construction sites, you can even see the brands of shrapnel from the Civil War on a brick wall that he uses as a background in a session. He captures the essence of time from him.
A change of concept: showing the day-to-day life of mannequins, clients, designers… It shows what was happening in front of and behind the spotlights in a totally natural way. Give up the pomp, the extravagances and the excessive preparation of the images. “The anti-photography of fashion”, points out the curator. He portrays, for example, three models posing with designs by Antonio Nieto on the steps of Madrid’s Palacio de la Bolsa, but also the reaction of the curious who stopped to observe and, therefore, turned their backs on the camera. Biarnés immortalizes the moment by placing them in the foreground, but leaving them out of focus.
Combine these reports with others on different topics. It cannot be forgotten that at his insistence, in 1965, he got a world exclusive: portraying the Beatles in a relaxed atmosphere in his hotel room in Barcelona where he spent several hours with them. Her sympathy that characterized her brought her closer to both universal stars and citizens on the street. Specifically, in the fashion industry she had a relationship with many of her agents: the designers whom she immortalizes working (Marbel, Vargas Ochagavía, Elio Berhanyer…); Her models: Lourdes Albert and Paloma Cela are her favorites and protagonists of many of the images in the show. The world of fashion interests her so much that she and her husband – the journalist Jean Michel Bamberger, fundamental in her career – encouraged the recently deceased Paco Rabanne to open a store in Madrid, although it did not enjoy much success. Even the photographer participated in the outfits and proposed ideas during the sessions.
Biarnés set a trend. This exhibition and its presence in Spanish photojournalism provide a new look: the only one that at that time started from the eyes of a woman, who began with the sole objective of not disappointing her father and ended, as her obituary points out in he Terrassa newspaperthinking: “I will take my best photo tomorrow”.
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