Centelles and the start of war photojournalism in Spain

Photojournalism has developed along the last century. Some changes are caused because of the photography technology and the improvement of the profession. The war images seventy years ago were different than now and the correspondent role has changed too.

Agustí Centelles exhibition in Zaragoza is a perfect example about the photojournalist was in the past. In “Todo Centelles” We can see 82 images about the Civil War in Spain. In this moment, Centelles owned the Leica camera III (1933 model) which shook the photography world. This camera was little and it doesn’t needs to be held in a tripod. For this reason Centelles could move quickly between people and take the best photografies.

Some of exhibition images were hidden during a lot of years, but in 1976 when the democracy started in Spain, Centelles could recover it and publish. There were in a valise in Carcasonne for these years.

During the Civil War, photojournalism was similar than propaganda. And the journalist didn’t cover the news like now. For example, Agusti Centelles only worked with the republican bloc and He took photos about their soldiers. Images were an arm to control de society and Medias worked to convince people about the importance of the war. In this time, it was not possible to be an independent photographer. Now Medias and their journalists work with many barriers and more freedom.

We can see this difference explained in the photografies. For example, some images were poses prepared by the journalists. In spite of that, these photos were published in the newspapers. Is the fact of the Centelles photo about a horses barricade in Diputació Street in Barcelona. Octavi Centelles, the photographer`s son has explain it in an interview to El Mundo: “My father recognised there are two photos prepared by him, this is not to prepare an atrezzo and make it, He was documenting at the moment. The popular photo about the horses is the last one”

Tony Garcia

BARCELONA, 19 JULY 1936. Three “guardias de asalto” behind a horses barricade. By AGUSTÍ CENTELLES. This image was cut to eliminate an other character. It is a pose not a real situation. 

Centelles worked with filters, cuts or editions in other photos during the developing with the aim to create big moments or acclaim some people. Now, if Medias prepares one photo in a similar situation would be criticized by society and probably the photographer would lost their job.

In spite of these differences, there are something links all the war photograpies: the feeling. And Agustí Centelles achieve this to carry this emotion with their images. I would like emphasise  in two photographies because it symbolize this war feelings.

The first is the kiss of one soldier to his partner before he goes to the war. It is a great image because we can remember all the things need one soldier to forget during the combat. There are a popular photo which is also knowed in al the world and it is so similar: A naval kissing one nurse in Timies Square in 1945.

agusti centelles - beso milicianotimessquare-kiss

Left: BARCELONA 1936. A soldier kisses her girlfriend before goes to the war. By AGUSTI CENTELLES

Right: TIMES SQUARE, NEY YORK 1945. A naval kisses a nurse the day of the USA victory in the Second World War. By ALFRED EISENSTAEDT

Finally I would like stand out another photo. In the image appear one mother crying in front of his son corpse. Nine italian planes were  bombed Lérida and 226 people had dead. This mother remembers the Michelangelo`s Pietà when the Virgin Mary crades the ded bofy of Jesus.


LÉRIDA, 2th DECEMBER 1937. Mother cries because og the deth of his son, Josep Pernau. By AGUSTÍ CENTELLES.

In brief, after seeing the exhibition “Todo Centelles” I think there are many choses wich were changed in the war photojournalism, as the method way of working of the photojournalist but in spite of all the great photos will stay in the history.






Post by: Carlos Villar Ortiga

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