domingo, 7 de junio de 2009

ROBERT CAPA IN CERRO MURIANO: THE DAY IN WHICH REALITY SURPASSED IMAGINATION (6th Part):

ON THE REST OF PHOTOGRAPHS OF REGARDS MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 24TH 1936

By José Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSA

Photo: ROBERT CAPA © Cornell Capa / Magnum Photos

With respect to the rest of pictures appearing on Regards Magazine of September 24th 1936, there are some very important aspects:

- The photograph appearing on top left of page 7 just over the one analysed in the 5th Part of Robert Capa in Cerro Muriano (depicting a Republican militiaman standing alive, dressed in dark clothes and cap and another one in the background only partially seen and wearing clear garment) with two Republican soldiers lying on the ground, was made before the latter.

It´s very important to bear this in mind, because there have been some people saying that "Capa made this picture after the one occupying the middle left of page 7, ordering the militiamen to lie on the ground faking to be dead to deceive future observers of the picture and make them believe that the two militiamen had been killed by enemy bullets just after taking the photograph of both of them running and grabbing their mauser rifles´.

This is absolutely false. Robert Capa was not idiot. He simply took this picture a lot of minutes before the photograph appearing under it on the left half of page 7 of Regards magazine of September 24th 1936, while the two militiamen visible on top left picture of page 7 were sleeping or playing simulating death on a visibly different area of the wheat covered slope as a part, and besides, it´s not sure that they´re the same two Republican militiamen appearing running down the wheat covered slope in the middle left picture of page 7.

In this respect, there´s a very important 6 x 6 cm medium format picture made by Gerda Taro on the same wheat covered slope (only a few minutes before the photograph made by Robert Capa appearing on left middle area of page 7 of Regards magazine September 24th 1936) - the recent extraordinary exhibition This is War! Robert Capa at work has definitely proved that Gerda Taro was with Capa in the wheat covered slope - on which six Republican militiamen are running upwards the little knoll going towards its summit. This is a very spectacular photograph made by Gerda Taro in which the militiamen are simulating to be attacking enemy forces defending the peak of the hill.

Though evidently, there isn´t any real combat in this picture, there´s no trick or calculated staging made here by Gerda Taro. She simply makes the picture of the six Republican militiamen infused with revolutionary spirit and feeling overconfident and euphoric, who avidly want to be photographed by two foreign photographers having raised a lot of expectation in them with their presence.

In this spectacular picture made by Gerda Taro (taken from a very low position and highly probably with this very brave woman crouched and having a knee on the ground to get as much impact as possible from bottom to top) and appearing on page 79 of the superb book This is War! Robert Capa at work (written by Richard Whelan and copublished by the International Center of Photography New York and Steidl Publishers, Göttingen Germany) the six quoted militiamen appear running upwards on the lower part of the 2 1/4 inches square negative: two of them (the nearest to Gerda Taro´s Rolleiflex camera are wearing dark clothes, the militiaman on the lower right area of the frame and simulating encouraging his comrades with his left arm raised to attack a really non existent enemy position on top of the slope is clad with white garment, the two militiamen in the middle are wearing clear garments (probably in light brown colours) and the militiaman wearing white clothes second from left is the Falling Soldier some minutes before being instantly killed with his heart pierced by a high velocity 7 x 57 mm Mauser bullet shot by a Tabor of Regulares sniper.

This way, there´s no doubt: in the top left area picture of page 7 of Regards magazine September 24th 1936, depicting two Republican militiamen lying on the ground either sleeping or playing simulating death, the nearest one to the camera is one of the two militiamen wearing clear garments (probably in light brown colours) appearing in the middle of the quoted picture made by Gerda Taro in square medium format 6 x 6 cm with her Rolleiflex, while the Republican militiaman appearing in the background and wearing dark garment and also resting on the ground, is one of the two nearest to the camera Republican militiamen appearing on the lower area of the aforementioned Gerda Taro´s photograph and wearing exactly the same dark garments (probably dark blue).

But the picture on top left area of page 7 of Regards magazine September 24th 1936 was made a lot of minutes before the one on left middle area of page 7 and also before the quoted Gerda Taro´s picture made from a very low angle, in which Capa´s fiancee strives after getting the lowest feasible shot angle to generate drama and impact, fully attaining it, because bearing in mind the gradient of the wheat covered slope, is almost impossible to get a lowest angle. Even, while she´s taking this picture, perhaps Gerda Taro is lying on the ground with her head oriented towards the militiamen and her elbows firmly leaned on the wheat covered ground, and ground, struggling not to get a blurred image because of the movement of the militiamen.

Both if Gerda Taro is crouched with one knee on the ground or lying on the terrain to get even a more pronounced and dramatic very low angle on taking the picture, this image clearly reveals that Gerda Taro feels already a high passion for photography, steadfastly making strenuous efforts to obtain the best possible pictures, as clearly proved in this picture, where Gerda Taro manages to get a pronounced bottom to top taking angle going beyond the one attained by Leonard Freed in his picture made in a Wall Street Tube Station Entrance in 1955, whose photographing angle antithesis would be Death from Overdose in Harlem New York City in 1972.

Robert Capa was not so naive to try to convince anybody into believing that these two militiamen on the ground (that could be or not be the ones appearing on the left middle zone picture of page 7 of Regards magazine of September 24 th 1936, as we´ll see later), had been killed by enemy shots, because they are very clearly sleeping on the ground or playing simulating death, resting on their left side in order to minimize the rubbing with medium and little sized stones being on the terrain.

Id est, the two militiamen lying on the ground are very clearly alive, not dead.

On the other hand, Capa was not responsible for choosing the pictures to be inserted inside Regards magazine. That was the editor´s job, who selected the photographs with his own intentions, aims and criteria, and evidently it was not Capa´s purpose to persuade anybody
that the two militiamen lying on the ground were dead, because they´re clearly resting on their left side and sleeping that it was the editor´s intention either, because the militiaman clad in dark clothes is the one appearing nearest to the camera on page seven left middle area picture, while in the photograph with both men clearly resting on the ground on their side either sleeping or playing simulating death, the man with the clear garment is the one nearest to the camera.

It is impossible that if both men have just been killed by enemy bullets immediately after the picture in which they are running downwards on the wheat covered slope, the man with clear attire is the nearest to the camera. If both men would have been killed by enemy fire just after the picture on middle left area of page 7, the nearest man to the camera would be the one wearing dark clothes.

Photo: ROBERT CAPA © Cornell Capa / Magnum Photos

Besides, paying attention to an enlargement of the picture in which both Republican militiamen are either trying to sleep on the ground or simulating death , we can see that the man in the background clad in dark clothes has put his Mauser rifle almost utterly parallel to his stretched right leg, in an instinctive defensive position of easy access in case he suddenly needs the gun if there´s any kind of alarm or unexpected situation while he´s trying to sleep or pretending to be dead, and his right naked arm is visible, with its hand leaned on the wheat covered terrain, in the same way as his head.

On his turn, the Republican militiaman appearing in this picture nearest to the camera and wearing clear garment has the right leg stretched and the left one half bent, with his left arm also bent on the ground with his head on the stubble, and he has put his Mauser - of which we only see its butt- crossed a few centimeters from his chest, without rubbing it, also following a defensive natural instinct, to have the gun very quickly and easily accessible if there´s any alarm while he is sleeping or simulating to be dead. Even, probably he´s touching the rifle middle zone with his right hand.

There´s another further factor regarding this picture with both militiamen lying on the ground: both the nearest Republican militiaman to the camera (the one wearing clear clothes and crossed straps) and the one in the background (using dark garment) wear big leather ammunition poaches, one clearly visible in the low part of his back in the nearest militiaman to Capa´s camera (apart from two more on the front area of his waist not visible in the picture) and another one visible on the waist of the dark clad militiaman in the background (apart from two other more poaches not visible: one more on his waist and another one on the lower low part of his back). And this is confirmed by one of the very important eight 6 x 6 cm medium format pictures taken by Gerda Taro on the wheat covered slope, approximately between 9:00 h and 10:30 h in the morning on that September day of 1936, as we´ll see later.

But there´s more. Among the new unknown till now pictures shown by ICP in his superb This is War!, Robert Capa at Work held in New York, London, Milan and now in Barcelona from next July 7th 2009, there are some pictures of Republican militiamen lying on the ground sleeping or simulating to be dead.

On the other hand, it´s very important to know that the five different pictures appearing on pages 6 and 7 of Regards magazine of September 24th 1936, are not consecutive at all. Even, one of them (the one being on right middle area of page 6 ) wasn´t made on the wheat covered slope, but in Las Malagueñas hill 2.5 kilometers in the south of Cerro Muriano, as already explained in Robert Capa in Cerro Muriano 4th Part. in Robert Capa in Cerro Muriano 4th Part.

- The photograph appearing on the right middle area of page 6, was already analysed in the 4th Part of Robert Capa in Cerro Muriano.

- The photograph appearing on the right lowest area of page 6, shows six Republican militiamen simulating to be firing. There are four men ´shooting´, aiming at the right of the frame (the one most on the left and the three on the right half of the negative), another one (the militiaman just behind the man wearing a straw hat) aiming a bit upwards slightly towards the left of the picture, and a last one (second from left and perhaps the Falling Soldier some minutes before being really killed) aiming his Mauser rifle upwards and towards top central area of the frame.

Photo: ROBERT CAPA © Cornell Capa / Magnum Photos

It is absolutely evident that these soldiers are not really firing. They´re very near one another and offering an easy target for any hypothetical enemy forces, and at the same time, three of the militiamen (the one most on the left - with his Mauser more raised upwards than the three comrades on the right of the image and whose hypothetical bullet trajectory would go on progresively towards the sky- and above all the two ones behind the man wearing straw hat) are simulating to open fire aiming at very different points.

Even, the second militiaman from left, infused with overexcitement, confidence and revolutionary joy, is ostensibly aiming his Mauser rifle at the sky.

It´s very clear that there isn´t any real combat against rebel forces.

There are some people saying that ´once more, in the same way as with the Falling Soldier, Robert Capa was a liar, because these Republican militiamen are not really firing and Capa was not going to risk his own life being with his camera in front of these unexperienced militiamen´. And they say this to accuse Capa of trying to deceive future obervers of the picture into believing that these militiamen are shooting against enemy forces.

Please!

Robert Capa was not idiot. There isn´t any kind of trick, fake or stage implemented here by Capa. At every moment and in vast majority of pictures made by Capa and Taro that morning of September 1936 on the wheat covered slope, the Republican militiamen eagerly yearned to be photographed by two foreign journalists, something which raised in them very high doses of expectation from the first moments. And it´s known the great ability of both Capa and taro to create empathy with a wide range of people.

Robert Capa simply takes this picture with the militiamen acting at will and performing eclectic poses while they´re simulating to open fire with the intention of appearing as best as possible in the picture.

It´s very important to bear in mind that we´re at the beginning of September 1936, when Franco´s coup d´etat has been quelled in the biggest capitals (Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia amongst them) of Spain for one month and a half, mainly because of the CNT and FAI anarchist militiamen fighting in the streets, factories, official and communiaction centers, etc, as well as attacking the army barracks and headquarters and getting a lot of weapons, specially the coveted Mausers, having greatly the power in the streets, so they´re highly euphoric and buzzed with enthusiasm.

Capa doesn´t need to place these soldiers to make the picture, and it is evident that he hasn´t put them in the rather chaotic way they appear with their rifles in the picture. He simply lets the militiamen simulate battle at free will and takes the picture, both in this case and in many others, in different areas of the wheat covered slope that morning of September 1936.

Therefore, on making this picture, Robert Capa doesn´t try to cheat anybody in future into believing that there´s a real battle and the militiamen are opening fire, because at those moments he´s perfectly aware that some of them are aiming at different directions - even one of them pointing his gun towards the sky - Capa only takes the picture to capture the very special atmosphere of the moment brought about by the overjoyed militiamen themselves.


- The photograph appearing on left lowest area of page 7, was already analysed in the 1st Part of Robert Capa in Cerro Muriano.

Text inscribed in the Registry of Intellectual Property of Madrid. Copyright Jose Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSA

Texto inscrito en el Registro Territorial de la Propiedad Intelectual de Madrid. Copyright Jose Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSA