In 2001 Tom Sponheim, a tourist from the USA, bought around a hundred black and white negatives, of what appeared to be European cityscapes, at Barcelona's Encants flea market for just over three euros. Upon his return to Seattle he scanned them and it became clear that they had been taken by someone with great talent, but someone whose identity was unknown. It was not until the definitive emergence of social media, such as Facebook, at the end of the first decade of the 21st century that Tom Sponheim saw that it might be possible to identify the photographer who had taken these pictures. And he succeeded. It was not easy to start with. He had to resort to advertising his Facebook page, "The Lost Photographs of Barcelona", but it paid off. On 12 January 2017 something important happened. Carles Cols, a journalist at El Periódico newspaper, took up the mantle with an article entitled, "Search for photographer deserving praise". The article finished with these words, "The search is on for the photographer who took these wonderful pictures. Whoever it was deserves praise, both here and in Seattle. If we are lucky, the search will continue". The story, which is reminiscent of the one about John Maloof and the discovery of Vivian Maier's photographs, did continue, with surprising results.
The person persona who took the first daguerreotype of the Pla de Palau in Barcelona on 10 November 1839 was called Ramon Alabern i Moles. He was born in Begues (Barcelona) on 18 December 1811 amongst a family of engravers. There is a great deal of confusion about Ramon's name, surname and details, not only in photography history books, but also in those dealing with engraving. Although the first biographers, who were his contemporaries recorded his names correctly, the most common error is to call him Ramon Alabern Casas, giving him a second surname that corresponded to a nephew also an engraver. This article is intended to clarify this point and to situate Ramon in time, thanks to unquestionable documents which make it possible to broadly trace his professional career.
Last June the Barcelona Maritime Museum appointed the conservator and restorer of photographs, Laura Covarsí, to intervene with a documented photograph album, dating from the beginning of the 20th century, containing scenes relating to the English shipping company, MacAndrews. The task posed a double challenge: on one hand the conservation of the pages and cover with all the original hand-written annotations and, on the other hand, dealing with the various photographic processes and photomechanical techniques (Printing out Paper - POP and Developed out Print - DOP).