(4) The 2018 cycle UPIFC x Monumental Hotel

Detail of a client sited on a barber chair in the extinct Peluqueria 11 barbershop of Tallers Street in Barcelona, Spain. Date: 03/2003. Photo: Xabier Mikel Laburu. Vicens Amat was the last proprietary of the barbershop. The father of Vicens was the first of the two generation barbershop history. Though Vicens Amat never liked to work as a barber, he combined his studies with working in the shop, mainly taking care of the accounts. In 1982 his father dies and he decides to leave his current job as a High-School teacher and work full time in the barber shop. The fall in client numbers, the competence in the neighborhood with other barbershops managed mainly by immigrants and facing retirement, made him close the barbershop.

Traditional Shops in extinction

A narrow street carved with the pace of thousands of souls that crosses the old city of Barcelona. Old buildings built of stone and bricks that soar to a hardly visible sky, hide a little jewel that passes unnoticed for a mass of pedestrians who speak hundreds of languages like if it where a modern Tower of Babel. Only a slight glimpse or the curiosity of someone returns a fraction of the sparkle that this small jewel, a small shop, had in some moment of the past.

A shop that dresses the outside with a haggard facade, while in the inside shows the yellowed wall paper and the worn out furniture aged by time or perhaps simply a passing fashion.

Shops that sometimes were inherited generation after generation like the one of Asunción Quevedo, ‘Almacenes del Pilar’, who remembers how “All my family lived and died in the small apartment of this store, I still remember how the day of my wedding I left it dressed as a bride walking on a long carpet that we laid for the occasion.”

But “progress” slowly killed all of what ceases to be profitable. Urban changes in the historic center of the cities, the cancellation of the old rental contracts, the large retailers with long opening hours, and above all, the accelerated life style, the rush that has invaded all and has washed away the good habit of doing things with ease: “The clients who still come are those who want a personal treatment and like to smell the product, something that in a supermarket can not be done. They are mainly elder people from the neighborhood. Now I see how record, tattoo, and clothe shops are installing all around me… things are changing. It is a changing future where no one knows if they will be able to survive, that is the truth, they are suffering a heavy competence with the Pelayo street (a commercial street nearby). I see an uncertain future.” Says Enric Blasco who was the owner of a small perfume store in the Raval neighborhood of Barcelona.

These shops, where the living experiences could be shared beyond the business, a place where people could express their concerns and receive advice, because the skill within the profession was important and the dedication to each client was highly valued as the manager of El Indio, Victor Riera, states: “The shop had a worker who’s task was to know the client and guide him according to his needs… each of them had their personal tender.”

Shops who’s counters talk of History and little stories, which talk about good and bad times, about lives in the neighborhood and scenes that remind us that we were people moved by human impulses and feelings, like what happened to the mother of Joan Mila, and how the last tender of a small shoe shop that stood in the Carme street remembers: “During an air-raid that took place during the Spanish Civil War, a bomb fell on our building damaging our home and the shop. Days after, in the rush of my mother to fix the damages, she hired the services of a worker to fix things up a bit. One day, while working in the shop, a new air-ride took place, and my mother, in order to seek for protection, locked the doors without letting the worker leave. This man felt very upset with her for not letting him leave. A few days after he came back and apologized because that day he learned how a bomb fell on his workshop killing all who were there at the time.”

Owners and shop keepers who worked as a family, who explain how they had to sleep on those counters, or even on a higher flat looking through a spy-hole to see if someone entered the shop. The same people that remember with a smile how someone famous stopped and visited them, as the painter Joan Miro did once and a while at the antique shop owned by Benet Rouse to ask him about his art studies. Shops that keep in their memory one thousand neighborhood secrets and stories and shop owners and tenders who remember with sorrow how the neighborhood shifted from: “A familiar environment where people use to talk on the doorsteps, where all participated collectivity in any celebrations that would take place, etc.” as Jaime Bellini from the Principe book shop remembers, to a touristic or immigration nightmare for some.

Traditional old shops that are disappearing, perhaps for not wanting or simply for not knowing how to adapt to the new times. Only because their owners did not want to loose the essence that made them necessary. A tradition that hardly can sustain a family and that is being swept away by progress, absorbed by the truth of what today has become just History.

Text: Elisa Pavón / Xabier Mikel Laburu (UPIFC)

DATES:June 21 > August 31 / 2018
  • 498-500 Consell de Cent street
  • Barcelona (08013 Postal Code)
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: stop “Monumental”
OPENING:Thursday June 21 / 6:30 pm
CONTACT: Xabier Mikel Laburu van Woudemberg (UPIFC)


I was born in Toronto, some time ago, four years before the Walkman era, to be precise. As a child I moved to Spain with my parents to a small, beautiful, but close-minded village in the middle of the mountains close to the Pyrenees. In my late teens I had my first experience with photography, and in some strange way I felt connected to it and it became part of my life. The beginnings were harsh, jobs for the local magazine, for a local shop, for some small editorial project, all of it a bit too small to make a living out of it. When 22, and tired of fighting and not getting anywhere I decided to see if I would have better luck in Holland. Though I did not do much as a photographer (I had to part-time for a living), something in the air, and I do not think it was weed smoke, gave me an inspirational push that would surprise me. Nevertheless, I did not like too much the amount of rain I endured in Holland, so I decided to emigrate back south two years later. I was lucky enough to find a job in a regional newspaper, it was not much of a wage, but it kept me going. But to tell you the truth, what I really wanted was to find my way to Barcelona, a metropolitan city, where everything looked like “big time” for an adopted country kid like me. The opportunity arose two years later as a free-lancer for the same newspaper I was working for out in the provinces. Though short lived, this period gave me the time I needed to adapt to what would be my new home for the following 10 years. In Barcelona, though sometimes it could be harsh as any big city, I learned most of my “savoir faire” in the profession thanks to having worked with small and big international media outlets and agencies, as well as for many corporate clients. After this “Barcino” (Ancient Roman name for Barcelona) experience, I moved to Malaga due to family matters, where I am now, for the time being.

My main goal in these last few years is focused in producing documentary content for a full array of outlets, but basically media related ones. Combining all this with some commercial jobs, which, keep on knocking on my door every once and a while and help me finance whateverprojects come to my mind.

Xabier Mikel Laburu van Woudemberg (UPIFC)

Portrait of Enric Blasco in what was his perfume store in Tallers street of Barcelona, Spain. Date: 09/2004. Photographer: Xabier Mikel Laburu. The grandfather of Enric Blasco inaugurated the shop in 1900. Enric remembers how he grew up with all the mells and had very clear he wanted to continue with the family tradition. In 1955 he started to work full time in the shop and would take over it when his father retired. Blasco closed the shop in January 2005 for retirement, his son did not what to take over the business.

Shoe boxes stand on the shelves from the extinct shoe shop Calçats Mila in the Carme street of Barcelona, Spain. Date: 02/2003. Photo: Xabier Mikel Laburu. The shoe shop Calçats Mila is documented with an other name in 1846. In the beginnings of the XX century, the shop is sold to the Mila family who would take care of it until the death of Roser, the last owner after her brother Joan who would have the tough job to close the shop in 2003.

Old bigheads are piled up in the storage of the Ingenio shop that is situated at the Rauric street of Barcelona. Date: 18/09/2015. Photo: Xabier Mikel Laburu. Founded in 1838 by a sculptor called Lambert Escaler. In 1924 the grandfather of Rosa Cardona buys the shop that is specialized in paper mache figures. Over the years they become a referent of their product creating many popular figures for the different village and city fests. Rosa will retire at the end of this year, and has no one to take over the business. Despite she says it is still a very profitable business, its complexity and size makes it difficult to find someone who would take over the shop, but she does not loose hope in finding someone before she closes.

Luis Sanroman attends a client in the Churreria Banys Nous in Barcelona, Spain. Date: 18/09/2015. Photo: Xabier Mikel Laburu. This churro shop was property from one of the uncles from Luis Sanroman, the owner. In 1969 his father started working in the shop and when he retired in 2014, Luis took his place. Luis says that he has a rental contract that expires in 10 years and has no idea about what will happen there on. He recognizes that if he could he would like to buy the shop since he always has been there.

Jaime Bellini, stands in front of the entrance of his bookshop in the Princep de Viena street of Barcelona, Spain. Date: 16/09/2015. Photo: Xabier Mikel Laburu. Bellini emmigrated from Galicia after the Spanish Civil War, after working in several jobs, in 1960 he opens a second hand bookshop. Now he is retired but opens the shop every days for a few hours to ventilate the stock and talk with the few old neighbors or clients that still remain. His son decided to continue the business but sells in the markets while he uses the bookshop as a storehouse.

Enric Blasco closes the blind of the shop in Tallers street of Barcelona, on the last day that he was officially open. Date: 21/01/2005. Photographer: Xabier Mikel Laburu. The grandfather of Enric Blasco inaugurated the shop in 1900. Enric remembers how he grew up with all the smells and had very clear he wanted to continue with the family tradition. In 1955 he started to work full time in the shop and would take over it when his father retired. Blasco closed the shop in January 2005 for retirement, his son did not want to take over the business.