I will try to explain all my research as clearly as I can, with all the details that have brought me to find this extraordinary photographer "MILAGROS CATURLA".
This story just mixed with my own one, with that of Tom Sponheim and in some way with the one of Francesca Portolés(A member of Agrupació fotogràfica de Catalunya).I have discovered all yesterday, so I was spending all night long writing this, without sleeping so sorry for my English.
It was december 2016, and I was walking around "Els Encants" a flea market of Barcelona , and I bought some old negatives that fixed my attention.As Tom and Francesca, we share that fascination about the mistery that sorrounds not knowing what was inside , what photos we will find, so the three of us made the same at different times, Tom in 2001 and Francesca in 2004.I developed the negatives that are from Barcelona 1937 and published the photos in my facebook trying to share with as many people as I could in order to find any clue about the people in them.
Just by chance a couple of weeks later, Tom Sponheim's photos began to circulate in facebook, and they just drew the attention of Carles Cols , a journalist of "El Periódico" that published Tom's story.Some of my friends were surprised by the coincidence of our stories and posted me the article.As you can imagine I was seduced not only by the story but by the quality and beauty of the photos.
As I was in the middle of nowhere finding the owner of my photos, I just payed more attention to Tom's photos.I got in contact with him and we began to talk, so I told him that I would try to find the author.There were people recognizing themselves in the photos and giving names of the places.Besides that,what immediatly surprised me was the amount of photos with children.....like I used to do as a photographer when I wander around the city.So I began to think,must be a woman!, another clue was that she was taking photos at schools, and at that time in Spain (1961)girls and boys were separated , and for me was very strange that a man just went inside of a female school to take photos....In that moment I realized too that the only posing photos were of a woman, maybe the photographer herself?.Maybe she was a teacher at the school?.Maybe just a friend?
So I decided that the school was a very important clue.Some people called the school "Els tres pins", and nowadays there is a school with the same name, at the same place.Perhaps she was not a teacher , maybe she was a social worker at that area surrounded by barracks?.For some time I followed the adventures of a famous social worker of the barracks that used to take pictures too, I was convinced that she was the woman near the tree...I sent her the photos but she never answered...So I directed my attention to finding information about the school.Obviusly I was searching at google all the time, when I discovered that the real name of the school was "Carmen Tronchoni" but the people just call it "Els tres pins",the neighbourhood name.
And that brought me into the inflection point of my investigation.I started to search at old Newspapers of La Vanguardia , with the words Carment Tronchoni just trying to find information about the teachers or people working there, when I just found the announcement of a Photographic contest that involved that school!!.Even more,giving the list of places where the photographers could go to take pictures and they were almost all the places where the photos were taken, the school, the ballet classes...So that was it!! The 4th of november 1961.The contest was organized by the female section, but it was not clearly saying it was only for women.So with that great sign I just had to find the winners of the contest and then I would have some names to look for.Later on I found the real announcement of the contest the 17th January 1962,saying that it was only for women, so "Eureka" the photographer was a woman.
I was thinking ,well now it's easier,I just have to look in april 1962 to find the winner,but to my surprise there were no winners published.Despite this I have found the winners of the year before, and other years.....the 7th April 1961 , the winners were: First Prize Gloria Salas de Villavecchia (Gloria Salas Bulbena), second prize Nuria Vilaplana, third prize M.A.Gumá de Vilanova, and fourth prize Milagros Caturla with the photo "Fervor".There were more photographers so I started to look for what I could find on the internet.
All this happened two days ago only.I found things about Gloria Salas Bulbena ,another extraordinary photographer,because her mother Gloria Bulbena was a very famous catalan activist and even had written a biographic book that I could read at the "Biblioteca Nacional de Catalunya", but was her the photographer?.I couldn't find more photos on the internet nor at her mother's book, just that eight photos....but in that Web Page they explain that she was a member of one of the oldest (1923) and more emblematic Barcelona photographic groups,the "Agrupació Fotográfica de Catalunya".
I decided to go there right away.Last Wednesday afternoon I arrived to the AFC, and there is where I met Francesca Portolés,a member for more than 30 years.A group of people were filming a Documentary about the AFC, and she was very busy , but promised to look for "La Villavecchia"(as they called Gloria Salas) photos and she gave me her personal number.As curious as I am, I found information about Francesca and suddenly realized that she was in a similar story some years ago.Was that destiny? As I was doing some research about the Salas Bulbena Villavecchia family, I've found that last year Gloria Salas was alive and with 101 years, and also found some contact of her daughters.So I just called one of them Pilar,who explained me that her mother was alive.I sent her some of the photos but she didn't recognize them .... so I was again confused, I had to go to the AFC again and look in the bulletins, so I called Francesca and she told me that in the monthly magazines they always published the contests and the winners.
And finally,just in front of my eyes was her photo and I reached the end of the mistery.....yesterday the secretary from the AFC gave me the magazines from 1961 and 1962 , and that was it,one of the photos of Milagros Caturla, "Fervor" the one of the 4th prize of 1961 , the same photo that Tom Sponheim has in his facebook "Las fotos perdidas de Barcelona".
This photo "Fervor"
The AFC organized an exhibition with the works of the female members, so this photo was in the issue of March 1962.Anyway I looked in the issue of april-may 1962 because I really wanted to know who won the IV contest of the Sección Femenina.......and can you believe it?, MILAGROS CATURLA was the winner!!.The pity is that they didn't publish the photo , but they interviewed Milagros, so I add here the interview.Nevertheless Carles Cols from "El Periódico" noticed later that in the Perez-Rozas photo we can glimpse one of Milagro's photos....possibly the winning photo?.
And that was it, I had her, I had solved the mistery, but what has happened to her?.I could only find that she had won the second prize in "Las Fiestas de Gracia" in 1961,and that she was taking part in an exhibition in Olot, also with Gloria Salas de Villavecchia, maybe they were even friends?.Well this is another story as I am arranging a meeting with Gloria (almost 102 years!! )and her dauhgthers.
As I was trying to collect more information about her, I found a cemetery notice.....so was she dead??.They add the name of one relative, so I got his phone number in the white pages and called him this morning.I called one of his nephews Lluís Caturla Poch, and he confirmed me that she had passed away some years ago.He was amazed about everything because he really loves her aunt, she never got married or had children, and they had a very closed relation.He remembered very well how he used to go to her aunt's house at Carrer Valencia 212, where she had a room completely dedicated to the photography, and how he began to love and make photos just because of her.He is writing now some biographical data and he will send me also some photos of Milagros.
And that's all by the moment,the AFC (Agrupació Fotográfica de Catalunya)and myself in anything that I can help, will try to give MILAGROS CATURLA a proper homage and because of that the AFC with the invaluable help of Francesca Portolés (now ex-president of AFC)will prepare an Exhibition of her photos,as we feel her as our own "Vivian Maier"
And it will be a great present for us that Tom Sponheim ,as the owner of part of her legacy,could come to join us in this adventure, with Milagro's nephew Lluís and the rest of her family. And for my own photographic mistery I can only say " To be continued" ......
(Lluis Caturla corrected my text,he used to work as a professional translator.Thank you Lluis!! )
BREVE BIOGRAFÍA Y LISTADO DE PREMIOS
Milagros Caturla Soriano nació el 9 de marzo de 1920 en Barcelona. Era hija de Luis Caturla Travieso, natural de San Juan , teniente coronel de Infantería y profesor de la Academia de Infantería de Toledo, y de Josefa Soriano Cardona, natural de San Lorenzo del Escorial. Fue la séptima de diez hermanos.
Hacia 1940, obtuvo el título de maestra, aunque no llegó a ejercer.
Estudió corte y confección Sistema Martí y tuvo un taller de modista en el domicilio de sus padres.
Formó parte de un grupo de teatro aficionado.
Trabajó en la empresa de alimentación Riera Marsá.Fue funcionaria de la Diputación Provincial de Barcelona.
El 26 de Octubre de 1957 ingresa en la "Agrupació Fotográfica de Catalunya" con el número de asociada 1859,no figura fecha de baja.En abril de 1958 ganó el tercer premio del concurso de cursillistas del mismo AFC ,donde participaban por igual hombres y mujeres,el primer premio fue para José Tomás y el segundo para Andrés Basté.En abril de 1961 ganó el cuarto premio del III Concurso fotográfico de la sección femenina con la obra "Fervor".En agosto de 1961, ganó el segundo premio con la obra "Maternal" en el IV Salón Nacional de Fotografía Artística "Fiesta Mayor de Gracia", concurso también mixto donde el primer premio fue para Eugenio Forcano y el tercero para Ramón Vilalta.El 3 de agosto de 1961 ganó el 5º premio con la obra "Recela" en el XVII Salón Nacional de Arte Fotográfico (Vilanova i la Geltrú)
En abril de 1962 ganó el primer premio del IV Concurso fotográfico de la sección femenina.El 11 de agosto de 1962 ganó el tercer premio con la obra "Faces" del XVIII Salón Nacional de Arte Fotográfico (Vilanova i la Geltrú)
Además de su afición por la fotografía, fue una lectora empedernida.
Padeció Demencia Senil los últimos años de su vida.
Falleció soltera y sin hijos el 28 de marzo de 2008 en Sant Cugat del Vallés.
Milagros in the middle with a black dress beside her father 1930
Left to right standing Maria Luisa, Fernando, Pepe, Enrique and Luis
Left to right sitting Carlos, Josefina(mother),Pilar, Milagros, Luis (father),Eduardo and Lola
The membership number of Milagros at the AFC