Portraits around the neighbourhood (the part you throw away…), by Joan Colom i Altemir – 1960s & 2010

Holding the camera below the hip, shooting without looking through the visor, Joan Colom i Altemir (Barcelona, 1921-2017) photographed the people and their everyday life on the streets of his neighbourhood in Barcelona: La Rambla, El Raval; Ciutat Vella… From the late 1950s to 2010 he took thousands of pictures of plain people: kids, workers, beggars, prostitutes, tourists, pedestrians of all kinds… He was really a master and I feel compelled to show here a few of the pictures by him that I like very much. I bet not a single one of them will leave you indifferent.

Most of his works have no title –just the date–, so I have written a short caption for each one shown here; or almost. The first three are among Colom’s last works; all taken in the Rambla or nearby.

La Rambla de Barcelona (where isil-daesh killed fifteen persons weeks ago) is one of the freest, most diverse and most tolerant places in Europe, where you can literally see anything. Of course, it is also one of the most bizarre and surprising places.

About the depicted persons themselves, I am quite sure that the girl in panties (not a prostitute, but a tourist with her dress uplifted in a hot afternoon) had a peaceful walk, that nobody told her a bad word and, most probably, few looked at her at all. About the kneeling, impeccably dressed elder lady asking alms, it seems she had not got a single coin (or maybe one?) yet…

Here is a peer of mine (yes; and of my sister too), shot in Ciutat Vella (2010):

Trans-girl -Joan Colom, 2010
Trans-girl, 2010 – fragment (in fact titled “drag-queen”, which is a wrong and offensive name)


Barcelona’s Ciutat Vella (district V) was a tougher and harsher place in the 1950s and 1960s, in the post-war period, during Francoism… but not much different as it is now. (Yesterday is Here, to quote an appropriate song title by Tom Waits). The following photographs, all by Joan Colom as well, show this similitude:

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Home assegut, plorant – El Raval, Barcelona (late 1950s)

Joan Colom 1960s 07
Man watching (El Raval, 1960s)

Barri-xines_1500x1000
Pare, mare i nena petita – El Raval (1960s)

joan-colom-photographs-09
Untitled (Drassanes, 1960’s)


[Since I couldn’t help recalling Tom Waits before, may I suggest you to listen to On the Nickel, while looking at these pictures…?]

… So what becomes of little boys

who run away from home?

The world keeps gettin’ bigger

once you get out on your own. —

So climb up through that buttonhole

and fall right up the stairs

I’ll show you where the short dogs go,

they’re on the nickel and over there …


I dedicate this post to my little sister Ari, who passed away thirteen months and five days ago, and who, one day, ran away from home, to the Nickel… All my deepest, sweetest, unending love!

21 thoughts on “Portraits around the neighbourhood (the part you throw away…), by Joan Colom i Altemir – 1960s & 2010

    1. So I hope. Thank you!
      Explicitly or not, I’ve dedicated to Ari the vast majority of posts of my blog -and all posts on hers-… Sometimes, pix or songs that I recall or find by chance trigger a vivid memory of her, and that happened when I began to look at photos by this Joan Colom… It happens to me everywhere, every time I see a tall blonde with short hair and some particular attitude difficult to describe: half-innocent & vulnerable, half-daring & confident.
      Incredible as it seems, I’ve also come across several women in the street, here and there, that have made my heart beat fast for a few seconds… I even ran after one some meters before realizing she could NOT be her. No way :((

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I too have come across a couple of women in public who, from a profile, would match her completely. I even looked at one waiting for her to turn around….just to see…..as she had the same build and hairstyle, and for a second, I thought…….

        Liked by 1 person

            1. Sardinia was part of the Catalan-Aragonese Confederacy (Crown of Aragon) from the late 13th c. to the XVIII century. It passed to the Austrian empire in 1713 through the treaty of Utrecht, after the Crown of Aragon was defeated by Felipe V of Castille and the French. Soon it was handed over to the House of Savoy, that would impose the Italian language on the island in 1760. But Sardinian and other five local languages (including Catalan) are still widely spoken there.

              Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad to read this 🙂 Thanks for the ‘like’ and the comment.
      I seize the opportunity to excuse myself for having been quite absent last months from WP in general and your site in particular. I am living difficult times. Best regards !

      Liked by 1 person

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