Fotografia a Catalunya

Toni Catany

Toni Catany


Toni Catany's (Llucmajor, 1942-2013) biographical notes indicate that he was self-taught and that it was a correspondence course that he took around 1957 that marked the beginning of long and patient studies that would lead him on to achieving truly beautiful images and real visual triumphs.

Toni Catany was a unique figure in the pantheon of contemporary photography. His photography was extremely personal. His first exhibition was held in 1972, after which he went on to hold more than a hundred more individual exhibitions around the world.

Towards the end of the 1960s he started to use the calotype technique to photograph landscapes, still lifes, nudes and portraits, subjects he would later continue to pursue. He was particularly keen to see his works published in books, and these received numerous accolades.

Natures mortes (Lunwerg Editores, 1987 and 1995), which won the prize for the best book in the 1988 Primavera Fotogràfica (Photographic Spring), brought together a magnificent collection of his still lifes in colour. He is mostly associated with still life photography and it was this particularly that brought him to international attention.

La meva Mediterrània (Lunwerg Editores, 1990) won the prize for best book at the Rencontres internationales de la photographie d’Arles and the prize for the best illustrated book awarded by the Generalitat de Catalunya (1991). It was his first treatment, resulting from his travels, of the Mediterranean and its culture.

In 1993 Somniar déus (Lunwerg Editores, 1993) was published, the result of four years devoted to photographing the male nude using a technique inspired by the calotype.

Obscura Memòria (Lunwerg Editores), published in 1994, was his second, personal interpretation of the Mediterranean for which he used Polaroid's Polapan film to capture the ancient ruins he found all around the Mediterranean region.

Fotografies (Lunwerg Editores, 1997) won the European Publishers' Prize and the prize for the best illustrated book awarded by the Generalitat de Catalunya (1998). It showed his first Polaroid transfers, a technique that allowed him to pursue, in colour, the themes that had interested him since the beginning of his career, themes he would continue to pursue with great mastery and an undeniable ability to cause surprise.

It was not until 1998 that his first calotypes were published in book form, Calotips 1976-1986 (Sa Nostra).

In 1991, he was named Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture and in 2001 the Generalitat de Catalunya awarded him the Premi Nacional de Cultura (Visual Arts Division) for his exhibition at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in 2000 entitled, The Artist in his Paradise. It was an unusual and remarkable exhibition and one that was also reproduced in a magnificent catalogue. The exhibition was curated by Pierre Borhan, director of the French Patrimoine Photographique, and, through a selection of 160 photographs, it provided a very complete survey of Catany's work between 1979 and 2000. In 2001 he was awarded the Premio Nacional de Fotografia by the Spanish Ministry of Culture and in 2003 the Government of the Balearic islands awarded him the Ramon Llull de les Arts Prize.

In 2006 he published the book Venessia (Lunwerg Editores), a beautiful compilation of the photographs he had taken of the city of Venice over the many years of his visits.

Visions del Tirant lo Blanc was published in 2007 in collaboration with the poet Gandia Josep Piera. This was a visual interpretation of the chivalrous world in which almost all his main themes coincided, from the nude to the still life, and one which included his particular view of the Mediterranean landscape.

Around 2005 he embarked upon what would become, during the last years of his life, his great project, the creation of the Toni Catany Foundation. From 2007 the future Foundation had the official backing and participation of the Council of Mallorca and Llucmajor Town Council, the town where Catany was born and location for the Foundation. The legal procedures for the establishment of the Foundation were concluded with the unanimous approval by both the Council of Mallorca (23 December 2010) and Llucmajor Town Council (29 December 2010) and upon the ratification of the institution's Statutes by all the parties concerned.

Catany undertook to donate thousands of negatives and prints as well as two hundred photographs by other photographers, a collection of cameras from different periods, an extensive library and the house of his birth in Llucmajor. In 2009 the Council of Mallorca had, for its part, used European funds to acquire the house of the priest and photographer, Tomàs Montserrat, which was adjacent to that of Toni Catany, and the Spanish Tourist Institute had transferred €4.3 million to the Government of the Balearic Islands so that, in due time, these funds could be transferred to the Council of Mallorca for the implementation of the project.

As the 8th legislature of the Balearic Islands commenced, the project started to slow down on account, amongst other things, of the economic crisis and the liquidity problems of the institutions involved. Given that the funds for the constitution and creation of the Foundation had been provided to the Government of the Balearic Islands, Catany, who had expressed his concern about the apparent holdup in the proceedings, was given assurances by the president of the Council of Mallorca that the project would be resumed, the economic situation permitting, as soon as possible and that the Government of the Balearic Islands would be required to transfer the funds it had received to the Council of Mallorca to that end.

In June 2013, four months before his death, which neither he nor his friends had for a moment imagined would be so near, Toni Catany decided to inform the Council of Mallorca that the constitution of the Foundation would have to wait until these funds were, at last, in the possession of the Council. His decision was influenced by the need to have somewhere to live in Llucmajor while waiting for the Foundation to take shape. The plan was to refurbish his house in anticipation of its future integration into the planned Foundation. This would include Tomàs Montserrat's house next door when the conditions had been met for the Foundation's constitution. Catany wrote to the Councillor for Culture and the vicepresident of the Council of Mallorca on 26 June to express his disappointment and his intentions saying, "My continued desire is to ensure the integrity of my photographic archive and to locate it, as far as possible, in my home town". The Council of Mallorca, for its part, asked the Spanish Government for a extension for accessing the funds provided for the project, which had been banked by the Government of the Balearic Islands at the end of the previous legislature, and this was, by chance, granted four days after Catany's death, the period for the implementation of the project thereby being extended until the end of 2016.

While he continued to work on the future Foundation with his associates, the last years of his life were highly creative ones too. His work was still being exhibited in Madrid, Brussels, Barcelona and Mallorca. The Baluard museum in Palma de Mallorca, for example, purchased some of his photographs for their collection and continued to actively seek out new projects and images to supplement it. When he died suddenly, on 14 October 2013, he was working on what would be a posthumous exhibition at the Trama gallery in Barcelona entitled, Altars profans, or 'Profane altars' In the introductory text for the catalogue for this exhibition, Catany's great friend and current vicepresident of the Foundation, the Belgian Alain d’Hoogue, wrote the following words and they describe his creative moment very well.

"One way or another he strayed away from the main function, denying hierarchies, provoking improbable proximities, putting aside geography, time, cultures and religions and, on the way, demystifying what is sacred as the photographer invented his own synthesis from the most diverse sources to acclaim love, friendship, art, the other and the other side. Both for simple things and the most sophisticated ones, for the fleeting moment and for the long term.

Toni Catany's profane altars do not call you to Mass or to ritual, nor to the slightest sacrifice. And if they are adorned with offerings, it is because they are a gift to life."

Font: Fundació Toni Catany.

Fotografia: Adrià Pujol.


2016 Toni Catany. Cuando ir era volver​. Casa Milà (La Pedrera), Barcelona.

See the exhibitions


BEZARES, Miquel [et al.]Toni Catany: cuando ir era volver. Llucmajor: Fundació Toni Catany, 2016. 165 p.

See the bibliography