The Civil War photos that Capa stole from Gerda Taro
In the fifteenth issue of a copy of the magazine "Threshold" dated October 1937, just one year after the military coup d'etat against the Government of the Second Republic occurred, wrinkles appear on the face of an old woman who He smiles with a black handkerchief tightly tied to the gray hair of his tired hair. Those marks on the skin that the passage of time has granted the category of immortals are accompanied by the following text: «This old woman is our Spain. In his laugh, face the story, The resurgence of the universal people begins. Source of life is. Fascism cannot destroy the creative joy of the earth. Spanish youth responds to a slogan: let's defend the laughter of our "old woman" ».
The image that illustrates the publication is signed by photographer Kati Horna and takes place in some corner of Valencia. This Hungarian portraitist, a Mexican adoption artist, made her first reports in Paris and decided to soak up the news of Surrealism and shortly thereafter go to Spain and cover - with the commission of the Foreign Propaganda Offices of the CNT - a historic event like the War Civil, which like the avant-garde movement in which it had been starting as a professional, He was quite in favor of the absurd. On a wall adjacent to the frame of the cover of the magazine, another portrait is noticed. This time it is the jovial features of a militiaman who sustain a gesture of enviable happiness. His mouth waits open and impatient for the red wine that holds the flask that he holds with his hand to spill precipitously and in the middle of a slight intoxication occurred in the rest of the fight, be able to forget that you have to return to the front to shyly greet death.
It is no accident that behind the camera that immortalizes this traditional scene to remember the conflict is a Leica held by the hands of another photographer. From a Jew retaliated by Nazi Germany as Gerda Taro who came to Spain as an exiled reporter for her anti-fascist militancy whose attraction, fascination and repulsion for the horrors of a war between brothers It served to nurture one of the most fascinating professional periods of his entire career. The photograph of "Miliciano, in front of Aragon" conforms along with two other snapshots of episodes on the Republican front the total amount of images wrongly attributed to his partner, also the photographer Robert Cappa.
After the elaboration of an exhaustive work by the International Center of Photography In collaboration with Reina Sofía of identification and attribution of the negatives found in the so-called "Mexican suitcase" (which grouped the work carried out by Taro, Cappa and Chim), it has been concluded that these photographs are, in effect, by Gerda .
This material constitutes, together with Horna's work, some of the most relevant elements that are part of the new room of the Reina Sofía Museum Collection. The title of this new space located on the second floor of the Sabatini building, «Front and rear: Women in the Civil War», responds to a social need to rescue and point out the active role of women during the war period while trying to highlight the importance of the professional character they had both in the front and in the rear and the conversion that all of them led to creative disciplines such as photography or art in political instruments.
Activists, militia, artists, intellectuals and workers. Women who were definitely part of the construction of a civil resistance and daily survival whose archetypal difference is well explained in the two parts of the room; on the one hand, the role of women within the republican side and on the other, the imagery and publications that were made from the Francoist side. While from the left they tried to promote and promote autonomy and individual freedom through the creation of magazines such as "Free Women" in which Kari Horna herself participated and whose main objective was to "free women from their triple slavery: of ignorance, of woman and producer ”, the materials shown in the area of the national side have to do with all those ideals of religious self-denial, maternity, and ridiculous sacrifice that so illustratively reflects the collection of postcards« Women of la Falange »which includes photos of José Compté.
Concha Calvo, head of Photography of the Collections Department of the Reina Sofía Museum, highlighted in the presentation of the space «the importance of the publications written in the projection of these photographers. Magazines such as "Threshold", "Weekly Illustrated" or "Regards". In fact in the case of Gerda Taro, "Regards" it was the first magazine that officially paid for her work». It is curious however that the names of photographers with a production on the Civil War so extensive, varied and personal have been so silenced historically or in the worst case, such as Gerda, overshadowed and overshadowed by that of their partner.
That is why this exhibition, coinciding with the celebration of March 8, but without being in any case exclusive trigger of it, also includes posters, publications, postcards and even a short documentary written and directed by Mauricio A. Sollin dedicated to «All working women» entitled «Women and war».
In line with this vindictive nature, Ana Longoni, director of Public Activities of Reina Sofía has clarified: «This museum is mainly composed of women workers and I would like to highlight how happy that makes me. In that sense, the feminist revolt in Reina Sofía wants to be framed precisely in an international and local context that completely overflows the museum. This room is not an ephemeris around 8M, but is part of a daily and sustained work that intends to stay between these walls ». In the middle of that war-besieged Spain there was a woman who used her camera to express the nonconformity of her ideas and materialize the restlessness of her hands. Now, three photos of the conflict refer us to the resistance and vindication of a story, ours, which is still part of the collective album of the people's memory.
«Gerda introduces me to all editors and also writes articles. Never before in my life had I been so happy. Now Gerda and I could only be shot apart», Recognized a young Endre Ernö Friedman with the candor that precedes ignorance, without even being aware of the tragic destiny that destiny would hold for his love and without predicting that it would not be a bullet, but a tank, which would end life from Gerda. That Robert Cappa and Gerda Taro (in the picture) were in love, does not invalidate the fact that together, they learned to build a commercial character that would end up absorbing them. That character was Cappa, whose name was taken from the filmmaker Frank Capra who had just won an Oscar at that time for "It happened one night." Before demonstrating his talent, Robert knew how to sell that he had it and in that certainly intelligent strategy he found in Gerda the perfect ally to carry it out. There were many doors to which the German photographer had to call so that Cappa's name began to resonate in the publications of the time. And yet there were few, the awards that she in professional terms would end up getting.