Flora Coll was a young Franco-Catalan photographer who died from multiple myeloma in 2008 aged 34. She worked in Colombia, Spain, France and the UK but despite some photos published in the Spanish newspaper El País, a double spread in the French magazine Le Monde 2 and an exhibition in Aix-en-Provence, she ran out of time to become known to the general public.
Our goal: to ensure the value of her work is recognised through the publication of Autopropulsion, a book centred on a series of 47 photos taken in Barcelona in 2006, while she was in a wheelchair. This book will coincide with a collective exhibition scheduled for May 2014 at the Galería Tagomago in Barcelona and a solo exhibition for November at the Galerie Schumm-Braunstein in Paris. Using the prototype that Flora Coll had made as a starting point, we are launching a crowdfunding campaign, called 47 Days for 47 Photos, to raise the funds necessary to complete the work that she wasn't able to carry through herself, and also to bring together a community of friends and unknown well-wishers. It will end on 30 April.
The book will follow Flora Coll's design and layout choices. There will be two versions, 370 copies of the regular edition and 30 numbered copies of the deluxe limited edition. These 400 copies, given to KissBankers, constitute the First Edition of the book and include 47 colour photographs and her statement of intent. Format: 19.6 x 29.5 cm, softcover, 68 pages printed on Condat matt paper 170 gr. The deluxe limited edition comes in a box, as per Flora's original design, and contains an original, numbered 13 x 18 cm print from the Autopropulsion series (prints not available for sale separately in this size). Publication date: June 2014.
The Flora Coll Project is a collaboration between her family, namely her sister and her father who initiated it in 2012, her many friends, Evelyne Schumm at the Galerie Schumm-Braunstein who was the first to believe in it, and Vicenç Boned at the Galería Tagomago who loved Autopropulsion when we came to see him in April 2013. Last but not least, Narcis Sauleda, without whom nothing would have happened, and Ana, Carolina, David, Evelyne, Fernando and Pato who pushed Flora's wheelchair in the streets of Barcelona in 2006.
We thank everyone who helped us along the way, especially at the Petit Palais, the Institut Ramon Llull and the association AF3M in Paris, at the Maison de la Catalogne in Perpignan and the Kowasa bookshop in Barcelona. If you too want to help make this book happen, support our project on KissKissBankBank, join us on Facebook, Twitter and www.floracoll.com and spread the word!
'There had been the hospital, the crutches, the wheelchair. Suddenly, the world became more complicated. To document the street from a wheelchair: a change of perspective, of space, of focus.
A life that almost wasn't any more. Then, coming out of the hospital, it was the world that suddenly was gone: blurred, unsteady, opaque. Inflammation of the retina owing to the corticoids. The world seen through a steamed-up window. Hence these images on the brink of disappearance, under-exposed or burnt, at the edge of abstraction. Images that almost weren't.
A wheelchair, it's a seat at 90 cm above the ground. In the city, the passers-by look straight ahead, they don't see the wheelchair, they bump into it. When living so low down, one acquires this strange quality: invisibility. The world below, it's fragments of bodies in reverse-angle, backs, fences, the tarmac.
A wheelchair which keeps moving, in it someone sitting still. All around, a city that never stops. Moving to make sure one exists, to forget it, not to think about it.
In other words, a question of distance, of speed, in response to a borderline experience.'
During the twelve days/stages of Autopropulsion, Flora Coll gets as close as possible to the city and its inhabitants to show the other side of a tourist destination. Barcelona surprises us but the photographer drops clues to draw us in a playful treasure hunt. 'She wanted people to see, through her photos, what a person who cannot walk sees. She said everything was different', her friend Pato explains. The title speaks for itself. In a wheelchair, the narrow pavements, the cars, the crowds of passers-by become obstacles and the horizon is hidden by a railing against which the gaze stumbles. Yet one feels Flora Coll is avidly reaching out to places, to other people, to capture the world around her. In the face of illness, and with time running out, Autopropulsion records a creative impulse intensified by a sense of urgency. To create is to resist.
So this is a life story - to make do with, or rather without - but it's also a human adventure, a story of friendships, 'all behind and him in front' sang George Brassens. Because it is difficult to propel a wheelchair while pressing the shutter-release button on the camera, unless two helping hands take care of the pushing. Autopropulsion? Agreed, since the true driving force behind these photos is not the arm muscles but the willpower. And, to quote André Gide, 'Such an effort seems to me comparable to that of Baron Munchausen tearing himself from the swamp by pulling himself by the hair. The remarkable thing is that he manages to do so.'