Leopoldo Pomés (Barcelona, 1931- Girona, 2019) was never a photographer of anecdotes, he always wanted to go further. He sought to transcend the decisive moment, to reach the recesses of intimacy. He spent the day looking, delving into nuances, hence he remembered Goethe when he said that “thinking is more interesting than knowing, but less interesting than looking.” Thus, much of the life of the Catalan photographer and publicist was spent searching for the light in the shadows, trying for a few seconds to evade the most tangible aspects of real life attracted by mystery.
“He was a seeker of mystery. Whenever he shot a photo, he did it because there was something that caught his attention without really knowing what it was, “he highlights. Karin Leiz, who was his wife, partner and muse, and now curator, together with his daughter Juliet Pomés Leiz, of the first exhibition dedicated to the photographer after of his death. It is a sample that, under the title After all, collects about a hundred vintage copies, or vintage, of which a third are unpublished images. As a whole, they contribute a more intimate reading to the broad and heterogeneous work of this innovator of photography, who was belatedly recognized with the National Photography Prize, he received it in 2018. They reveal those constants, which the curators refer to as obsessions , which are repeated throughout the author’s long career: women, shadowless light, windows and black holes, shape and space, shoes, landscapes, all of them make up a universe as full of truth as of ghosts.
The exhibition is part of the Xavier Miserach Photography Biennial. “It is made up of photographs of very different formats. Not all copies were intended, initially, to be displayed. Some were made by the author himself as part of the laboratory process in which the sensitive visitor will be able to perceive the emotion of the search for the author ”, says Juliet. “The face-to-face visit is especially important, since the paper, the different sizes and the action of the passage of time on the copy have a certain role and adds emotion to the whole.”
The artist learned from his father to look at people. To scrutinize the gestures of passersby sitting on the crowded terraces of Barcelona, far from imagining that his work would become part not only of the collective memory of his city but of a whole generation. ”No other show could compare to the fact of observe and guess the lives of those anonymous people that they might never see again ”, the curators write in a text that accompanies the exhibition. “Turning into a photographer, this observation exercise was the origin of his infinite interest and empathy for the human being.” Also the trigger for an early consciousness: through the occult, the imagination reaches infinity. “A photograph is good when its contemplation does not stop at the visible”, the author used to repeat. Hence perhaps its attraction to windows and black holes. “He was obsessed with windows where you can’t see what’s behind. “A photograph that only allows us to stop at what is seen was a bad photo for him. I was always looking for an image with content that would lead to reflection, ”says Leiz.
Perhaps unconsciously, his gaze was always accompanied by a graphic trend that revealed his taste in space and shape. A trend sharpened by her contact with the artists from Dau al Set who knew how to recognize the mastery of the young self-taught man in the field of photography. His influence would be decisive in the career of this artist, who showed his work for the first time in 1955 at the Layetanas Galleries, a beginning not free of controversy, but also welcomed by the influx of public and intellectual acceptance. “He treats the image as an ordered compositional element within a given space where, for example, a graphic desire to saturate black is appreciated or to dispense with the search for the textures of each object in order to play with volume. Composition plays a very important role for him ”, highlights his daughter Juliet.
“I had a very strong tendency to go for a white light, without shadows,” says Leiz. He discovered this in the mid-fifties, after a time when he had done the opposite, a dark and gloomy time where blacks were very forced. Images that the art critic, Alexandre Cirici Pellicer called “melanographies” because of their tragic nature. Suddenly he started looking for that other kind of light. “Cirici also spoke about what still interests me: light. Find the light in the shadow. It is the light that attracts me the most. The sun, in this country of ours, is a great producer of shadows, which are even photogenic, but I am not attracted to that light ”, the author recalled in an interview in 2007 with The newspaper. There are two images belonging to the series White picture (1959) shown in the exhibition as an example of this white light. In them Karin poses for her husband on a Castelldefels beach when evening falls. “The smaller format is unpublished,” says the model, “It was a gift. I had never seen it. Leopoldo discovered her rummaging through his archive just three years ago. ‘Look how wonderful,’ he told me. He was already retired from the advertising studio, when he began to open boxes full of negatives and contacts. In them were many of the unpublished photos that are included in the exhibition. Images at one point discarded, to which due to publicity work he had not been able to pay due attention in the laboratory. With maturity she discovered shots that she wanted to expand. She left a list. We haven’t been able to expand all of them yet, but it will be done ”.
The search for white light is born in another portrait of a woman dated 1954 that reflects light in the shadows: the enigmatic Hellenic profile, of her former love and also her first photographic model, Nuria Closas (sister of actor Alberto Closas ). “I remember when I took that photograph I felt that I was entering a world that I would never leave again,” he would say many years later. She never thought she was over it. It was precisely in female portraits where the artist recognized that she was most aware of the difficulty of the art of photography, perhaps also where her attraction to the enigma reached its greatest heights. “He always had a huge admiration for women,” explains Leiz. “Apart from the fact that he liked them as a man, he always revered them, as beings with properties that aroused his admiration. Even in his sexiest photography, his components are always in favor of women. Always praising her, the complete opposite of the object woman. Through the photographs she tried to find out and reflect the essence of what made them different from men. “
There are many who will remember you as the creator of Freixenet bubbles or as the author of an advertisement that escaped Franco’s censorship, the blonde girl from Terry on a horse on the beach. Images that have become part of the Spanish collective subconscious. Even so, Pomés always considered himself above all a photographer. A lover of life whose discovery of the meaning of hedonism gave him wings to look at the world without corsets and grasp its mystery. “In his last stage he carried a digital camera in his pocket,” recalls Leiz. “Even though he was fragile, he would shoot from the car, or order to stop to get closer and observe. Always turning to the same obsessions, even in his last days in the hospital. He died with the camera close. “