Tom Sponheim, an american tourist was browsing at Els Encants -a flea market in Barcelona- in the summer of 2001. On one of the stalls, he came across a box of brown envelopes, each one containing a collection of negatives that he bought for the equivalent of $3.5, one dollar more that the seller was asking.

On his return to Seattle, he examined the negatives and as soon as he saw the first image, a photo of a schoolgirl stopped behind a bench with two old ladies talking, he recognised that he had stumbled across real talent.

What Sponheim had discovered was a rare collection of images taken on the streets of Barcelona in the 1950s, capturing its residents unaware as they went about their daily life.

 

Image by Las Fotos Perdidas de Barcelona on Facebook

 

Who was the talented photographer? “When I heard the story of Vivien Maier, I just saw so many similatities”, said Sponheim.

Nine years later, in 2010, in an attempt to find out more about the unknown Barcelona photographer, he set up a Facebook page and invested at least $500 in Facebook ads to publicize the search for information.

Thousands of people started sharing the images and helped him work out the locations shown in the photos and even provided clues to the identities of some of the subjects.

 

   Image by Las Fotos Perdidas de Barcelona on Facebook

 

It wasn’t until 16 years later, when the Spanish photographer Begoña Fernandez Diaz stumbled upon the Facebook page in March 2017 and the artist behind the photographs was finally identified.

She visited the archives of one of Spain’s oldest photography associations, Agrupació Fotogràfica de Catalunya, where she spotted one of the images from Sponheim’s Facebook page. And written beneath the image was a name – Milagros Caturla, the winner of the IV Provincial contest of female photographers in 1962.

 

Mercedes Caturla

 

Caturla was one of the pioneering women at the forefront of the street photography movement in Spain. She was a teacher and a civil servant in Barcelona and she died in 2008 of Alzheimer’s disease, never knowing that thousands of people were searching for her – and celebrating her work online. A nephew of the photographer told Fernandez she had been living with her sister and never married or had any children.

Could she be a new Vivien Maier?

More pictures on Facebook: Las Fotos Perdidas de Barcelona on Facebook