Hermenegild Vallvé

Tarragona, 1893 – Tarragona, 1973

grupo autores

The spread of images of Tarragona in the press beginning in the first decade of the 20th century is closely linked to the Vallvé family, who, between father and son, had a career in photojournalism spanning 100 years.

Tarragona is where Hermenegild Vallvé Vilallonga was born, and Tarragona is where he died, almost a century later. Son of the painter Hermenegild Vallvé Virgili, he got his start in the world of photography at a very early age as an apprentice to Pere Pallejà, a pioneer in the art form in Tarragona. As a young man, he trained in photography, especially portraiture, a genre he would cultivate all his life.

Vallvé initially set up his studio in his father’s house and later relocated to the first floor at number 18 Calle August. It was his studio work that afforded him professional stability. For instance, from 1913 on, he was the photographer of the archbishops of Tarragona (López Pelàez, Vidal y Barraquer, Arce Ochotorena and Arribas Castro). He also worked as a photojournalist. However, as Tarragona was not a constant source of news, he published sporadically, with a frequency that could be counted in months. Local publications would not incorporate photography until later, and even then, only sparingly.

The first known press images credited to him date from 1910 and were published in the Barcelona weekly La Actualidad and the Madrid-based publications Blanco y Negro and ABC. The following year, he debuted in Ilustració Catalana and La Hormiga de Oro, collaborations that would last until both magazines folded, as well as in La Unión Ilustrada, where he was only credited in 1911. Subsequently, in 1912, his work appeared in the Madrid-based publications Nuevo Mundo and Las Ocurrencias, one of the first magazines specialised in current events. From 1916 onwards, his photographs were published in the Madrid-based Mundo Gráfico. He also contributed to Estampa for the first year after its launch in 1928. In the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s, he made some forays into the sport photojournalism, in the sport newspapers Marca and Mundo Deportivo.

In addition to ABC, he worked for several Barcelona newspapers: from the first decade of the 20th century, with La Tribuna and El Día Gráfico, and, later, with La Vanguardia, Diario de Barcelona and El Correo Catalán. When the illustrated newspaper Ahora was founded in 1930 in Madrid, he contributed to it, as well. As for the local press, he published in Diario de Tarragona and La Cruz.

This plurality of newspapers and editorial lines show that, as a photojournalist, Vallvé was a generalist, a versatile correspondent who covered all manner of current political, social and cultural affairs. He occasionally also published official portraits and landscape and heritage images.

In 1937, his studio was damaged in a bombing raid and most of his archive of glass plates was lost. The family left the city and, upon returning at the end of the conflict, found that their cameras had been stolen. Vallvé was able to carry on with the help of friends, who lent him a camera and an enlarger. He began to publish in the local press and collaborated sporadically with La Vanguardia Española, Solidaridad Nacional and the EFE agency.

Eventually, he passed the family torch to his son Ramon Vallvé, who, in 1953, was appointed to EFE. He went on to collaborate with various media outlets, made some documentaries and kept up the family business until 2010. He subsequently deposited the collection with the Centre d’Imatges de Tarragona [Centre of Images of Tarragona or CIT].


Piqué, Jordi i Vallvé, Hermenegild (2019). Revolució i guerra civil a Tarragona en imatges d'Hermenegild Vallvé. Tarragona: Publicacions de la URV.

Vallvé, Hermenegild (1990). Hermenegild Vallvé: un reporter gràfic de la primera meitat del s. XX. Tarragona: Diputació de Tarragona.