Watch, keep quiet and shoot

Joan Llompart Coll, alias Torrelló (Palma, 1939), photographed Palma, its streets and its people for more than 60 years. Most of these images could be enjoyed by the readers of Diario de Mallorca, the newspaper Torrelló worked for all his life.

Watch, keep quiet and shoot. A portion of the world is frozen. The fleeting instant that will never return, reflected forever in a photograph. The nostalgia that accompanies the unique moment. A look. An intention: the lens directed towards a group of children playing marbles, their hands in the dirt, squatting on the ground; the nocturnal, sad gaze of Yoko Ono and John Lennon as they come out of the Palma courtroom; an old bench in the street with two doves in the middle of it, and a man and a woman at each end, with no apparent connection; a nun on a bike; fish sellers; Real Mallorca fans in the old Lluis Sitjar stadium, watching the Barcelona team of Diego Armando Maradona...

Behind each of these images is the creator, centred solely on immortalising the moment, as an absent witness but one who is simultaneously aware he is making history. Joan Llompart Coll, alias Torrelló. Watch, keep quiet and shoot.

“I was 12 years old and I wanted to start working. One day, walking down Calle Colón in Palma, I noticed two signs, one in the window of Casa Planas and the other in Relojería Alemana. They both sought the services of an errand boy. At the time photography seemed more interesting to me than watches. When I went in the door I could already see myself holding a camera, developing a film... When I asked for the job, the owners laughed at me. Although I realised later that these same owners had noticed that I was a clever kid. So I went back to Casa Planas with my father, and that same day they gave me the job, for two Pesetas a week”.

Torrelló says he was always a restless, curious lad, who wandered around from one place to another, and who even knew hunger. Back then Casa Planas had a lot of shops in the city. He would run errands and take the developed films from one shop to another. At that time he started taking his first photographs. He asked to be allowed to go into the darkroom to learn and investigate that world which he was increasingly fascinated in, spending every day from 9 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon developing pictures.

At the age of 18 he left that job, did his military service, enjoyed playing football with the local La Soledad team, opened his own photography shops and a darkroom, quickly became independent; he bought a car... But he admits that he never had much commercial skill, he was never really ‘a businessman’.

By then he was already experienced in the area of photography for weddings, christenings and communions. Until in 1962 he began contributing to the Diario de Mallorca, through a friend. In 1963 they took him on permanently and he retired 40 years later, in 2003. His imposing white moustache and enigmatic air are still remembered in the  newsroom.

Palma, un altre temps. This is the title of the book the publishing house Dolmen Books recently released, with more than 100 black-and-white images signed by Torrelló, some of them taken with his silent Leica M3 and his Summicron 35mm lens.

“Any photograph that can be repeated today holds no interest. For me, photography is stopping the world, my world, for some years that will never return. I photographed unrepeatable moments of an era in Palma that no longer exists”.

Torrelló remembers the historic snowfall of 1956 and the people celebrating the event in the streets; and Kyoko, the daughter of Yoko Ono, looking at the lens after leaving the courtroom with her father; the current king of Spain Felipe VI, as a child, in an emotive picture with his mother, queen Reina Sofía. Watch, keep quiet and shoot.

 “Torrelló is an invention. I had a photographer friend whose last name was Torres, who didn’t continue with photography because he started working in a bank. And Torrelló came from Torres and Llompart. I have 800,000 negatives taken over 40 years of work. I believe the photographer has to always chase the news story. That was my idea. And I should also say that I have a lot of bad photos. The truth is I could make a book with all my bad photos”.

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