Couple Finds Envelope of Photos in Barcelona Flea Market, Spends 16 Years Identifying Photographer

black and white photos of barcelona

While vacationing in Barcelona in 2001, American traveler Tom Sponheim did what many visitors do—visit a flea market. Wandering near the Sagrada Familia, Sponheim and his wife popped into the bustling Els Enchants market when a stack of negatives caught their eye.

After seeing that the negatives were exposed, Sponheim spent $3.50 for the lot and brought them home, where he later scanned them. Stunned by the high quality of the images, this was where the real mystery began. Determined to identify the photographer, in 2010 Sponheim created a Facebook page, which quickly grew in popularity after he purchased ads targeting people in Barcelona.

In fact, many people came forward, identifying themselves in the photos. But still, the identity of the photographer remained a mystery. Then, in 2017, Begoña Fernández came upon the page and was instantly intrigued. Determined to uncover the name of the photographer, she spent days analyzing the images, looking for clues that would lead her down the correct path.

After recognizing an elementary school where many of the photos were taken, Fernández also found an announcement for a 1962 photo contest—the shooting locations matching up to many of the images. Her sleuthing led her to the Agrupació Fotográfica de Catalunya, one of the oldest photography associations in the region, where she spied one of Sponheim's images in an old magazine. This image of a woman deep in prayer, which was captioned Fervor, had won a 1961 photo competition.

Finally, Fernández had her eureka moment—the photographer's name. Milagros Caturla was one of ten children and worked in education. Until the time of her passing in 2008, she was a passionate photographer who had won many photo contests. Determined to show her work to the world, Sponheim and Fernández are working to exhibit her photography, starting with the Revela-T festival that takes place in Barcelona in May. Over 15 years from the time Sponheim found her work, Caturla will get a new chance to shine.

Tom Sponheim was visiting Barcelona in 2001 when he purchased an envelope of negatives from a flea market.

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After returning home and scanning them, he became determined to discover the photographer behind the black and white photos of Barcelona in the 1960s.

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Sponheim started a Facebook page in 2010 to aid in his mission. Many people came forward to identify themselves in the pictures, but still, the photographer was a mystery.

black and white photos of barcelona photos of barcelona pictures of barcelona in the 1960s

In 2017, Begoña Fernández discovered the Facebook page and, fascinated by the photos, knew she needed to find the photographer.

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After carefully examining the Barcelona photos for clues, she made a breakthrough by finding one of the pictures in an old magazine.

pictures of barcelona in the 1960s vintage photos

The photographer, Milagros Caturla was a passionate photographer who won many photo contests throughout her life. Caturla passed in 2008, but now Sponheim and Fernández are working to exhibit her images and bring them to a wider audience.

black and white photos of barcelona

h/t: [Mashable]

All images by Milagros Caturla via Tom Sponheim.

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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