Esteve Lucerón dies, the photographer of La Perona

Many photographers approached the barracks neighborhoods of Barcelona, and specifically those inhabited by the gypsy community, with a more or less documentary purpose. Some taking pleasure in the picturesqueness, others seeking to denounce their living conditions, others simply to routinely document them from the point of view of urban planning. The list is long, from Postius with Carmen Amaya in Somorrostro to Català-Roca, Colita, Xavier Miserachs or Joan Colom. And behind them, the entire generation of photojournalists of the 70s and 80s. But according to the photographer Jordi Calafell, commissioner together with Manolo Laguillo of the exhibition that can be visited at the Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona on the photographer Steve Luceron, who died this Tuesday, only two photographers came to photograph that community from within. One, Jacques Leonard (married to a gypsy woman); the other Lucerón himself (La Pobla de Segur, 1950), who photographed the neighborhood of The Perone the project of his life, first perhaps as an act of political awareness (he was a member of the Maoist Moviment Comunista de Catalunya) later fully integrated into the neighborhood and without his work having an explicitly political discourse.

“Single Subject Photographer”, Laguillo defines it. In 1980 he began to appear with his camera in that neighborhood that owes its name to a visit by Eva Perón, a long strip of barracks on the slope that separated the train tracks and La Verneda, between the Bac de Roda bridge and the Treball bridge. . In 1990, with the demolition of the neighborhood and the transfer of its inhabitants to various estates, stopped photographing. Partly because of his eye problems. But according to Laguillo, Lucerón said of La Perona that “if she still existed, he would still continue photographing her.” Almost 40 years later, he picked up the camera again. But it was to go look for the neighbors, their children and grandchildren, in the Roquetes neighborhood where many of them had ended up.

Lucerón was never a professional photographer. His hobby led him to study at the International Photography Center of Barcelona of Aurora del Raval street, of brief existence (1978-1983). “It was a different apprenticeship, which gave great importance to social reporting and to giving a photographic vision of Barcelona’s neighbourhoods”, explains Calafell. That made him approach the neighborhood of La Perona, where by distributing small copies of the photographs he took, initially to the children, he began to discreetly gain the trust of the neighbors and be accepted by them. When he had been there for five years, the Patronat Municipal de l’Habitatge hired him as a watchman of the premises where the classes and workshops were held that sought to integrate the population into the workforce and prepare it for its next relocation.

Put to make an exercise of comparative photography, there are similarities between Léonard and Lucerón (“both were integrated into the gypsy territory and photographed it from within”, explains Calafell) but while the former was more inclined to document the survival of traditional forms of community life, Lucerón portrayed with dignity but without romance its contemporary reality. Without folklore but without reflecting, for example, the harshest of those years on an entire generation of young gypsies.

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Inspired by the social photography of Walker Evans or Lewis Hine, in addition to the scenes of life in the street -“apparently without staging”, according to Calafell- or in the overcrowded intimacy of the barracks, in his portraits in 6×6 format, with his characters looking head-on -young gypsy parents at 16, or strong women and men, or groups with guitars and clapping- could perfectly pass for the peasants expelled from their lands by the Dust Bowl of the Great Depression if it weren’t for the Verneda blocks that peek into the background. “And the presence of women stands out, who have a common meaning, although this expression was not used then, of sorority, when they talk to each other, build something, make food or take care of the children”, concludes Jordi Calafell.

The exhibition on the reports of Esteve Lucerón in La Perona can be visited until May 22 at the Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona, ​​in the old convent of Sant Agustí. And on the Afb website you can access the virtual version of the exhibition ‘Esteve Lucerón and La Perona. The space and the people and to digital catalog this.

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