The photographic legacy of Barcelona, in sepia

We are publishing a new 'Barcelona desapareguda'. A second volume from the legacy left by Giacomo Alessandro, architect and creator of a photographic archive on Facebook where people voluntarily posted historical images of the city.

Barcelona City Council is publishing Barcelona desapareguda de Giacomo Alessandro II [The Lost Barcelona of Giacomo Alessandro II], edited by Jorge Álvarez, Enric Comas and Víctor Oliva, a social and architectural journey through the history of the city through the medium of photography.

The book is the result of community research and the generosity of the owners of these more than five hundred historical images from both private and public collections. It’s divided into 32 chapters that group the snapshots by urban landscape – Barcelona under construction, factories, bathing and beaches, La Rambla, Passeig de Gràcia, Tibidabo, Montjuïc, etc. – and by human landscape, portraits, pictures of children, workers, picnic areas and café terraces, and local festivals.

In the words of Carme Grandas in the first of the three forewords, “Giacomo immersed himself in the past in order to understand that past, and to look to the future”. Enric Comas Enric Comas notes that “we had no trouble convincing all those who’ve contributed to enriching these pages: I always got the same response from everyone who knew him: Anything for Giacomo”.

There is a class and gender bias in this set of images, as Oriol Oliva points out in the final foreword: “There are more men than women. The rich appear more often than the poor. And the wealthy central neighbourhoods appear more frequently than the peripheral ones”.  This makes the material invaluable in terms of documenting the social hierarchies of bygone eras.

Who was Giacomo Alessandro?

Giacomo Alessandro (Porto Torres, 1976 – Barcelona, 2016) was an Italian architect who spent much of his life in Barcelona, a city he both loved and admired. On 12 September 2012 he created a Facebook page called Barcelona desapareguda [Lost Barcelona], with a photo from the Photographic Archive of Barcelona taken by Josep Domínguez in 1930 1930 of the section Av. Diagonal that runs in front of the Palau de Pedralbes.

With this in mind, he set about collecting images of Barcelona that would contextualise the city’s history. Within three years, Barcelona desapareguda’s popularity could be seen in the more than 74,000 fans on the Facebook wall. Sadly, Giacomo died prematurely of leukaemia at the age of just forty. But his legacy lives on. A year after his death, Barcelona desapareguda was published, containing the images that he had helped to discover.

Book launch

The book launch will take place on Monday, 7 November at 6 pm, in the Sala Moragas at The Born Culture and Memory Centre (Plaça Comercial, 1). Chief archivist Joaquim Borràs, Enric Comas, and Oriol Oliva and Víctor Oliva, the authors of the book, will be taking part, accompanied by Carme Grandas, author of the foreword, and historian Enric H. March.