Agustí Centelles

Assault Guards at Carrer de la Diputació (1936)

If war is an animal of sharp teeth, photographer Agustí Centelles faced its jaws, like very few others did, during the Spanish civil war (1936-1939). Centelles, a member of the Agrupació Catalan Photogràfica, became a chronicler of the conflict.

This photograph was taken a few hours after the beginning of the Civil War, in Barcelona on July 19, 1936, at Diputació and Roger de Lluria streets. The image shows three assault guards aiming their rifles at the rebels from behind a barricade of dead horses. The first of them, in a T-shirt, is Mariano Vitini, a Republican assault guard.

But the image is actually a reenactment of the shooting that happened minutes earlier. After witnessing the scene, Centelles suggested that the key actors involved go back to their same positions, only this time he changed the angle of the barricade: preventing an uncomfortable backlight was essential. A shot that earned him the cover of the famous international magazine Newsweek.

In recognition for his unprecedented coverage, he received Spain’s National Photography Award in 1984. Because his is a bleeding chronicle that we can watch from a distance, and yet it appeals to the innermost center of our humanity.

Agustí Centelles

Valencia, 1909 — Barcelona, 1985

He is the father of Spanish photojournalism. He began covering the Spanish conflict with a Leica camera, first on the streets of Barcelona, then on the war front, where he served as a soldier, and finally as a graphic journalist. In 1939, he left Spain with a suitcase that contained all his negatives. He hid it in Carcassonne and went back for it in 1976. He received the Spanish Premio Nacional de Artes Plásticas (National Award for Plastic Arts) in 1984.

Agustí Centelles
© Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica, 2019

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