Ramon Manent i Rodon is one of the photographers specialising in images of the most significant art of the country and is author of more than one hundred graphic publications. Francesc Català-Roca, from Mataró, was both one of his teachers and his inspiration. From this November, he offers us his photographic perspective on the work of Josep Puig i Cadafalch, in the form of an exhibition at the Museu del Disseny.
Having spent some time exploring the work of Gaudí and Cadafalch, does modernista architecture continue to surprise you?
Only at the Museu del Disseny exhibition do we discover a totally different Josep Puig i Cadafalch to the one we are used to seeing. A multi-faceted character who worked as a designer, archaeologist, art historian, architect and as a politician. The truth is that I am still surprised at the skills and designs of Cadafalch.
Can one say that he was a humanist of the 19th century?
He was a huge character. We have to think that he began working on the Casa Coll i Regàs modernista house in Mataró and ended up designing the noucentista Casa Pich i Pont in Plaça Catalunya. Even upon his return from exile and having had his architect’s licence revoked, he clandestinely restored the Institut d'Estudis Catalans (Institute of Catalan Studies) in their home on Carrer Provença.
With such a prolific career, he would have been well-known in many fields, both in Barcelona and in Europe, is that correct?
He was a man of great culture who maintained an active correspondence with more than a hundred intellectuals from all over the world.
As a specialist in the work of Gaudí, what similarities and differences are there when compared with that of Puig i Cadafalch?
Their characters are completely different: Gaudí remained anchored to the projects of his patrons, such as the Casa Milà and the Sagrada Familia. On the other hand, Puig i Cadafalch worked in many different disciplines: the design of the Plaça Espanya and the four columns, the modernista plaques for the sewers in Mataró and Casa Guarro. However, both have the city of Mataró in common: the birthplace of Puig i Cadafalch and city that saw the first work by Gaudí, the factory for the Obrera Mataronaense co-operative (Mataró Workers Cooperative).
And light, what interest did it arouse in the two modernista architects?
Artificial light was virtually non-existent. Thus they both had to solve the problem by taking advantage of the natural light: they did so both in the Casa Amatller and in the Palau Güell. When I was photographing the latter, I turned all the lights off: being able to capture the real atmosphere of the place was very striking. And this is because the light forms part of the architecture.
Finally we come to your field, photography. At what point do you think the discipline finds itself in today?
Photography has evolved greatly and this has shown itself through the various techniques (analogue, digital, mobile devices, etc.). Today we gained in agility, in image quality and new techniques, but one thing hasn't changed at all: the emotional value of seeing an image