Milagros Caturla, the Spain’s response to american Vivian Maier

There’s another female photographer who just proves that the women from the 1960’s were as equally good as the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson.

The work of Milagros Caturla, a photographer who won many photo contests during her lifetime, has been rediscovered.

After a 16-year search, the pioneering photographer behind a mysterious collection of images that have been hailed as ‘Spain’s response to the work of New York’s Vivian Maier’ is finally celebrated in Barcelona in 2017.

Caturla was one of the pioneering women at the forefront of the street photography movement in Spain – at a time when women’s participation in the field was often frowned upon.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s women in Spain were just beginning to participate in street photography – but their participation was discouraged, with women often being barred from men’s photography classes and clubs.

It all began in 2001, when an Amerian traveler named Tom Sponheim visited a flea market in Barcelona, near the Sagrada Familia. A stack of negatives caught his eye and purchased them for $3.50. When he went back home, he scanned the photographs and was stunned with the high-quality imagery. The photographer was unidentified.

So in 2010 Sponheim created a Facebook page where he showed the images “the lost photos of Barcelona”, hoping social media users might be able to help him piece together who the mystery photographer might be. 

It worked: thousands of people started sharing the images, with several coming forward as the subjects in some of the images. Yet no one could identify the photographer behind the stunning photos.

It wasn’t until 16 years later, when Spanish photographer Begoña Fernandez Diaz stumbled upon the Facebook page in March 2017 that the artist behind the photographs was finally identified.

Diaz visited the archives of one of Spain’s oldest photography associations, Agrupacio Fotografica de Catalunya and she discovered the mysterius photographer was Milagros Caturla, the winner of the IV Provincial contest of female photographers in 1962.

Caturla, who had also worked as a teacher and civil servant in Barcelona, died in 2008 of Alzheimer’s disease, never knowing that thousands of people were searching for her – and celebrating her work online.

Caturla’s images offer a unique glimpse into what life was like in the late 1950s and early 1960s under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, who ruled over Spain for 36 years from 1939 until his death.

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