Text: José Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSASPANISH VERSION
elrectanguloenlamano.blogspot.com has been able to discover a new photograph, made by Capa or Gerda Taro on September 5, 1936, which has remained practically unknown for 75 years.
It is a picture taken in the Finca of Villa Alicia,
approximately 1 km in the southwest of the village of Cerro Muriano, on September 5, 1936, around 12:30 midday and in which we can see two militiamen, one of them in his forties, wearing a beret, white shirt, black trousers, dark cardigan buttoned up only in the area near his neck, and another one much younger, closer to the camera, filling the left half of the image and wearing a large blanket with some white stripes, a white shirt (whose right sleeve we can see under the blanket, occupying the lower left border of the picture) and whose chin, lips, nose and right cheekbone appear lit by the sun, in the same way as the forward and upper area of his anarchist militiaman cap - crowned by its tassle - , which bears the sickle and hammer embroidered on its upper right zone, though it doesn´t indicate his belonging to communist party, but a symbol which was also often used in the anarchist caps of C.N.T and F.A.I together with the letters U.H.P (Union of Proletarian Brothers).
This picture appears in the book ROBERT CAPA Cuadernos de Guerra en España (1936-1939) of the Image Collectio, Sala Parpalló Diputación Provincial de Valencia Edicions Alfons El Magnànim Institució Valenciana D´Estudis I Investigació of 1987, and though inside the book the caption under the picture states that the image was made in Madrid in 1936 (an understandable error, not only because of the very difficult identification and location, but also because the framing is very tight and the look upwards of both militiamen makes anybody think that it is a political rally in a big city), it actually corresponds to the series made by Capa and Taro in the Finca of Villa Alicia, on which we reported about in:
The most significant element for the identification has been the militiaman in his forties clad with a clear colour beret, who is the same person that can be seen in the first picture (upper left half) of the British newspaper The Illustrated London News from October 24, 1936, in which there are some photographs made by Gerda Taro and Robert Capa, a discovery made by elrectanguloenlamano.blogspot.com.
In such a photograph, this militiaman with a clear colour beret is just under another anarchist civil combatant wearing a dark cap of C.N.T or F.A.I (we can only see roughly a fourth part of it) who mainly distinguishes from the rest of militiamen because he is wearing a huge white handkerchief on his neck (on his right there is an anarchist militiaman with a short sleeved white shirt and a military cap, who is looking at Gerda Taro; and just behind the cap, there is an Andalusian militiaman with the typical clear hat of this region of Spain).
They all are attentively listening to the words addressed to them by a militiaman chief, who strives after encouraging them before the battle that will begin very soon and in which they´ll have to fight against General Varela´s troops, specially the legionnaires and the feared colonel Sáenz of Buruaga´s Moroccan Tabors of Regulares, who will try to perform the encircling manoeuver through north area of Las Malagueñas hill and a further penetration through the Finca of Villa Alicia, also attempting to encircle Torreárboles hill on its north side, linking with the legionnaires of the third Francoist column.
It all is well known in advance by the Republican high officers present in the area, mainly the majors Juan Bernal, Balibrea, Aviraneta and Captain Castañeda, who have been preparing Cerro Muriano village defense for some days, being aware about the impending attack that Francoist troops would launch on them to free Córdoba city from pressure, so they have placed abundant contingents of anarchist militiamen and regular Republican soldiers not only defending the summits of Las Malagueñas (where the Republican advanced command post in the area with Juan Bernal, Balibrea and Aviraneta is located) and Torreárboles, but also on Finca of Villa Alicia (where is Captain Castañeda, advising the anarchist militiamen), a zone of maximum risk of encircling manoeuvering, which must be defended at all cost to prevent the Francoist troops falling on the back of the defenders of the peaks of Torreárboles, who have been withstanding the attack of one of the three Francoist columns on the south side of this hill for some hours.
Once more, it can be observed the stress and anxiety on the faces of armed civilian men, lacking any military drill or prowess in the handling of guns, but being ready to face the professional troops of the Army of Africa, featuring a lot of years of experience in ruthless colonnial war in Morocco against the very tough men of the Rif.
In the image, we can also glimpse part of other three militiamen appearing in the aforementioned picture of The Illustrated London News of October 24, 1936:
a) Just over the beret, the militiaman wearing a huge white handkerchief around his neck, and whose face exceeds the boundaries of the photograph.
b) Just over the upper central area of the blanket resting on the militiaman left shoulder with clear colour beret, we can see the beginning of the short sleeve of the man clad in a white shirt and military cap (out of image, in the same way as the superior area of the face from the nose upwards).
c) Just on the far right area of the militiaman left shoulder, we can observe the right half of the body of another militiaman wearing a black beret and which in the picture of The Illustrated London News appears with the back of his dark beret - lit by the sun- nearly touching the military cap worn by the militiaman with a white shirt and a military cap probably captured during the assault of a military barracks in the preceding weeks.
We must also highlight that in this image in which appears the militiaman wearing a clear color beret - along with another younger militiaman with the sickle and the hammer on his anarchist cap-,
both the leather gun sling hanging on the area of his left shoulder nearest to his neck and what seems to be a calibre 12 shotgun, part of which protrudes over the clear colour beret of the militiaman, appear with higher level of detail than in the number of The Illustrated London News of October 24, 1936.
There´s an apparent loss of resolution and sharpness in this picture, not only in borders and corners, but also nearly on all the surface of the almost squarely cropped image, whose original negative was a 35 mm Eastman Kodak Panchromatic Nitrate film featuring a Weston 32 ISO, roughly equivalent to ISO 40, already showing a very visible grain typical in the 24 x 36 mm format chemical emulsions of thirties, so on making croppings the dwindling in quality is even greater.
Bearing in mind that Cziki Weisz was able to make gorgeous prints from 35 mm negatives with a Leica Focomat VIWOO Varob enlarger Model 1934,
it seems clear that the quality in origin when tackling any enlargement would have been higher if the original negative of the picture had been a 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 inches square medium format (because the much bigger size of negative surface - 400% bigger than a 24 x 36 mm- usually has a very significant influence for a superior image quality when compared with a 35 mm negative) and Csiki Weisz had made the enlargement with a Focomat II Model 1935 VOOWI and a 95 mm f/4 VOORT lens
which was the one he used to make the copies on paper using the 6 x 6 cm negatives exposed by Gerda Taro with her medium format Rolleiflex Standard camera fed by 120 rolls with capacity for 12 shots.
Notwithstanding, it could also happen that a hypothetical vintage copy on photographic paper made by Csiki Weisz from a 6 x 6 cm negative exposed by Taro in Finca of Villa Alicia, Cerro Muriano, was used 56 years later, in 1987, in photomechanics to make the half-tone plate for the 1987 book reproduction, wasn´t in very good condition because of the elapse of time and a number of reasons, so the image quality on printing in the book was even slower.
Therefore, in my opinion, regarding the authorship of this new photograph just located by elrectanguloenlamano.blogspot.com and appearing in the aforementioned bok of 1987, in 15.8 x 19 cm size, there are four possible hypotheses:
a) Robert Capa, if the picture was reproduced in the 1987 book - cutting on the sides and editing in an almost square format - from a copy negative of the 24 x 36 mm vintage contact done by Csiki Weisz from the original 24 x 36 mm negative exposed by Capa in Finca of Villa Alicia, Cerro Muriano, on September 5, 1936, with his Leica III (Model F) 1933-1939 and a non coated Leitz Elmar 50 mm f/2, since the image quality attained by Imre Weisz in many vintage copies (mainly in sizes of approximately 18 x 24 cm and 24 x 30 cm) that he made from 35 mm negatives made by Bob in August and September of 1936 in Spain, is far superior, also taking advantage of the synergy between the Leitz Focomat 1 enlarger high powered 75 watt opal bulb and the very fast for then Varob 5 cm f/3.5 enlarging lens often used at full aperture, both things being instrumental to make up for the relatively insensitive printing papers of the time getting the shortest feasible exposure times, with best results in enlargements achieved between 2 x and 10 x magnifications, id est, copies from 4.8 x 7.2 cm to 24 x 36 cm.
b) Gerda Taro, if for the reproduction in the 1987 book, they had a vintage copy in square or almost square format made by Csiki Weisz from an original 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 square inches (6 x 6 cm) negative exposed by Taro in Finca of Villa Alicia (Cerro Muriano), on September 5, 1936, with her medium format Rolleiflex Standard Leverwind with a non coated Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 75 mm f/3.5, and which in spite of being probably made in Ilford Hard Glossy paper, could have been damaged to some extent with the elapse of time and a number of further reasons.
c) Robert Capa, if for the reproduction of the picture in the book of 1987, they started from a vintage copy in four thirds format (something that Emerico Imre Weisz made frequently, for this aspect ratio matched better than the 3:2 the pages of the vast majority of graphic publications, magazines, etc) made by Csiki Weisz from a 35 mm negative exposed by Bob with his Leica III Model F (1933-1939) with a non coated Leitz Summar 50 mm f/2, but which was reproduced in the 1987 book editing it in an almost square 15.8 x 19 cm.
d) Gerda Taro, if the reproduction of the picture in the book of 1987 was made from a contact print made by Csiki Weisz from the original 6 x 6 cm format original negative exposed by Taro, providing that contact is included inside one of the eight notebooks of Capa´s and Taro´s contacts held in the Archives Nationales in Paris.
Imre Weisz, Capa and Taro´s highly trusted darkroom man in Paris, was an extraordinary expert on development of both 35 mm and medium format films, and also a top-notch printer and a good photographer, who had become one of the most remarkable flagships of the transition from FIMAN development drum (1925-1939, suitable above all for orthochromatic film, and consisting of a glass cylinder and dish with a metal frame and crank, whose manual working enabled watching the progress of the development under a dark light) to the Leitz Correx Cordo (1933-1939) development tank, much more adequate for the 24 x 36 mm panchromatic emulsions used by Capa (35 mm Eastman Kodak Panchromatic Nitrate made in Rochester, (New York); Agfa Gevaert panchromatic 35 mm film made by Agfa-Gevaert N.V in Mortsel (Belgium); Eastman Kodak Nitrate Panchromatic Super-X 35 mm; Panchromatic Agfa Isopan ISS 35 mm; Eastman Kodak Nitrate SS Panchro 35 mm and Agfa Isopan Ultra 35 mm ), Gerda Taro (panchromatic Agfa Gevaert medium format 120 roll film exposed as 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 inches square negatives with her Rolleiflex standard during 1936, and from 1937 until his death in Brunete: Eastman Kodak Nitrate Panchromatic 35 mm, exposed with a Leica she managed to get in the beginning of her last year of life) and the master portraitist Fred Stein (Agfa Gevaert Panchromatic 35 mm film and Eastman Kodak Nitrate 35 m film) and much more optimized for quick developments and the making of 24 x 36 mm contacts which allowed to evaluate the images for the selection of the best ones, something of key significance, specially for the negotiations implemented by Maria Eisner.
The Leitz Correx Cordo development tank, featuring a diameter of 14.5 cm and a height of 9.5 cm, was made with Tenacit, a very high quality and non corrosive plastic. It sported a reel also made with high performance plastic and it had an inlet through which it could be filled with developer and fixing solution, subsequently being emptied in daylight, in such a way that the only necessary stage in darkroom was the introduction of the film inside the Correx development tank. To all intents and purposes, it meant that the development, the first rinsing, the fixing and the final rinsing could be accomplished under ambient natural light, with the manifold advantages it brought about.
Cziki Weisz, a top-notch photographic laboratory expert, developer and printer of the negatives exposed by Robert Capa, a great friend of his since his teenage times in Budapest, in the same way as Kati Deutsch. He was the key man to make the excellent developments and contacts of Capa´s 35 mm negatives and Gerda Taro´s 6 x 6 cm ones, along with the creation of very high quality vintage copies in different sizes. He was also a good photographer, enthusiast of using all kind of Leica gear. Here, he is holding a black lacquer Leica II (Model D) 1932-1948 with Nickel Elmar 5 cm f/3.5 lens and Leitz FISON hood black early version with clip-on screw and Ernst Leitz Wetzlar inscription engraved. Photo: Fred Stein. © ICP New York
If we add to all of it that when tackling the making of contacts from Capa´s original 24 x 36 mm negatives, Csiki Weisz used a very high quality Leitz Focomat VIWOO Model 1934 enlarger with a Varob 5 cm f/3.5 lens (which was actually a standard Leitz Elmar 5 cm f/3.5 designed by Professor Max Berek and remarked for use as an enlarging lens with relative exposure values of 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, etc, rather than the conventional geometric values, the figures being engraved on the diaphragm aperture ring, the Varob 5 cm f/3.5 lens being also remarkable because it offered an acceptable image quality at long and medium distances but excellent at the shortest ones for which it was optimized as a lens for FOCOMAT enlargers).
we can understand the amazing consistency in top quality results attained by Capa and Kati Deutsch´s friend from teenage times, on creating 35 mm contacts from the original 24 x 36 mm films exposed by Capa.
Besides, Cziki Weisz had a lot of experience and mastered the fundamental keynotes of illumination with diffused light using the gorgeous Leitz Focomat enlargers, which attained a very even lighting on the whole surface of the negative and reduced to the utmost the reproduction of marks and defects which the negative could have (something rather frequent with other enlargers used till then in which the light passed through a condenser), even in prints sizes of 24 x 30 cm and 30 x 40 cm, so it was avoided to have to do the typical retouching which greatly delayed the delivering times of pictures to different illustrated magazines and publications.
Such as previously explained, the recently located photograph to which this article is devoted could be reproduced in the book edited in Valencia in 1987, using a copy negative of the original 24 x 36 mm contact on paper made by Csiki Weisz in Paris in September of 1936. If things were that way, there was an inevitable loss of quality because the magnifying factor was very big, but the remarkable image quality of the contact on paper made by Imre Weisz would have enabled to enlarge the photograph up to a size of 15.8 x 19 cm, getting a rather acceptable quality, which in my viewpoint would deserve accolades, because on making an almost square reframing, the useful surface of 24 x 36 mm contact is smaller, without forgetting that in 1987 there weren´t so sophisticated printing digital media as currently.
However, there´s also the possibility that this picture could have been printed in the book edited in Valencia in 1987 starting from a vintage copy made by Csiki Weisz, a copy negative being made of it and used in the editorial photomechanics, because in the book prologue it is mentioned a batch of 120 copies on paper of different photographs made by Capa (above all regarding Barcelona in 1936 and the Battle of River Segre in 1938, part of which were published in Life and Picture Post in 1938), that during the German occupation of Paris were delivered to an English journalist, who on his turn, handed them over to a woman friend of his. The original negatives of those pictures disappeared during the Second World War. The journalist died and after the war, the woman moved to Ibiza (Spain), taking with her the photographs, which fell almost into oblivion throughout fifty years, until they were recovered in 1985 by Patricia Strathern and incorporated into Robert Capa collection organized by his brother Cornell Capa in New York. Perhaps the picture opening this article, made by Capa in the Finca of Villa Alicia, Cerro Muriano, on September 5, 1936, could have been in this batch.
Likewise, in the prologue of the book, it is mentioned that they included some pictures made by Capa and Taro which were unknown or hadn´t been published since the years of the Spanish Civil War, coming from a lavish graphic collection kept in the Dosier de la Resistance Nationale de Ivery sur Seine, near Paris, so it mustn´t be excluded the hypothesis that this picture of Capa just located was included in that dossier.
If this picture was reproduced in the book edited in Valencia in 1987 from an original vintage copy in square format or almost square format like this 15.8 x 19 cm, in my viewpoint chances are that the photograph was made by Gerda Taro with her TLR Rolleiflex Standard, and Csiki Weisz made an almost square copy from an original 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 square inches medium format negative exposed by Taro on September 5, 1936 in Finca of Villa Alicia.
Whatever it may be, it is now very clear that the elapse of time is increasingly conferring the figure of Imre Weisz an absolutely fundamental dimension and significance to be able to understand both Capa and Taro´s photographic yield and their life context during the Spanish Civil War, because he was Robert Capa´s darkroom man, who developed the negatives exposed by Capa and Taro, also making the contacts and vintage copies of them in different sizes.
Not in vain, Csiki Weisz is the most important figure in the history and preservation of The Mexican Suitcase, because he was the person who developed the 126 rolls of 35 mm film it contains ( 46 exposed by David Seymour "Chim", 45 by Robert Capa and 32 by Gerda Taro), and Imre Weisz was also the person who saved it in its first stage, since shortly before departing on October 15, 1939 from France to United States on board of the ship Manhattan to meet his beloved mother Julia, his brother Cornell and Edith (Cornell´s wife) in the brownstone of West Eighty-Ninth Street in New York, Robert Capa left the custody of the approximately 4.500 negatives of pictures made during the Spanish Civil War by him, Gerda Taro and David Seymour "Chim" - and which were located at his studio of Froidevaux street in Paris - to Csiki Weisz, who painstakingly arranged three boxes of Parisian chocolates - red, green and beige colour- with carefully labelled hand drawn grids - what is known as The Mexican Suitcase-, putting all the negatives inside and subsequently getting it all into a rucksack which was hidden in the cellar of a Latin American consulate in France, finally ending in General Francisco Aguilar González - Mexican Ambassador in the Vichy Government during 1941-42- hands, who took the negatives with him when he came back to Mexico city, and after many contingencies which lasted for a lot of decades, the key labour of the cinema director and photographic curator Trisha Ziff, realizing its huge historical significance, was decisive for the definitive recovery and salvation of the Mexican Suitcase, one of the most important troves in the History of Photography, which was delivered by his son Julio Ernesto Patrick to the ICP of New York on December 19, 2007 in a very thrilling and symbolic act -he is the son of an exile of the Spanish Civil War-, one year after the demise of Csiki Weisz, who died on January 17, 2007 at 19:00 h in the evening in México City at the age of 95 years old.
It is very important to highlight once more the paramount importance of the contacts and vintage copies made by Csiki Weisz in Paris from the original Capa and Taro´s negatives.
In this historical golden period of Photojournalism, contacts had a key aim: the quick evaluation of the images which allowed the selection of the best pictures, made by the editor, along with the subsequent enlargements or the frequent reframes and contrast increase.
Contacts are the optimal way to grasp how a photographer works, in the same way as the negatives are his / her most valuable posession, which was the pith for the birth of the prestigious Magnum Agency in 1947, whose foremost promoter was Robert Capa, though the conceptual inception of the mythical photographic cooperative society had three previous turning points:
a) When during the summer of 1932, working as a darkroom assistant for Dephot Agency in Berlin, Endre Enrö Friedmann had the chance of watching the negatives of the amazing reportage made by Harald Lechenperg in Punjab (India) during a royal wedding, subsequently becoming enthralled on watching the contacts. That was the beginning of his huge photographic passion. From that day on, Bob understood that the most valuable treasure for a professional photographer is his negatives and contacts.
b) When Bob worked in Paris during August of 1934 as a darkroom assistant, developing films and making prints for Kurt and Hans Steinitz, owners of the Agence Centrale photographic agency, who retained many of his negatives, because Pete Petersen (Capa´s friend in Dephot Agency, which didn´t have a laboratory of its own in the French capital), who had hired Bob to develop his films with images of luxurious cars and make hundreds of copies in large sizes didn´t give them his money for the hours used in the laboratory. After some time, Bob knew that the Steinitz (angry because of the lack of payment by Petersen regarding the rented hours of Agence Centrale darkroom) had thrown his negatives to the waste paper bin, something which affected him very much.
c) When once he arrived in Paris in September 1933 with his great friend Imre Weisz, Bob, utterly aware about the huge significance of negatives and contacts, and that unlike his brother Cornell ( a good darkroom man and printer) and Csiki Weisz (an excellent darkroom man and printer) he didn´t excel in the laboratory labours (something that had already been detected by Andre Kerstészt in May 1934, though he realized Bob´s great potential as a photographer), he put all his confidence in Csiki Weisz, leaving in his hands both the development of his negatives and the creation of contacts and copies on photographic paper made from them.
d) When Capa sent a letter to his old friend of Dephot Agency in Berlin Ladislaus Glück in July 27, 1938 in which he suggested to make a photographers association with David Seymour Chim and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
On the other hand, this same militiaman in his forties wearing a clear colour beret, a white shirt and dark cardigan only buttoned up on its upper zone, also appears on picture 71 of the book Capa: Cara a Cara Fotografías de Robert Capa sobre la Guerra Civil Española, Editorial Aperture, and on pages 84 and 85 of the book Robert Capa Photographic Work of Phaidon Editorial, written by the true specialist on Capa Richard Whelan (top authority of all time on Robert Capa and Alfred Stieglitz), albeit we can only see in it two thirds of his profile face and his clear cap touching the left arm of the anarchist militiaman with his cracked cap
who was the key clue to discover that the pictures included inside page 727 of The London Illustrated News number of October 24, 1936 were made by Robert Capa and Gerda Taro also in Finca of Villa Alicia, Cerro Muriano, on September 5, 1936, a finding likewise made by elrectanguloenlamano.blogspot.com
If we add to this the discovery of a lot of new photographs of refugees fleeing away from the Francoist bombing of Cerro Muriano village unknown until very recently, along with their location, fruit of a very strenuous work and sweat of years,
we do believe that it is very clear the great photojournalistic role performed by Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, who were in the suitable places in the appropriate moments and greatly risked their lives in a number of different circumstances to capture the images with their cameras, writing that day one of the most brilliant pages in the History of Photojournalism.
Copyright Text: José Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSA.
Inscribed in the Territorial Registry of the Intellectual Property of Madrid.
Other articles on Robert Capa and Gerda Taro in Cerro Muriano:
Cerro Muriano. Discovered and Located a New Photograph Made by Robert Capa on September 5, 1936. Moments of PreDeath
Cerro Muriano: Identification and Location of Five More Photographs Made by Capa and Taro and Appeared in the 24/10/1936 Illustrated London News
Three More Pictures Made by Robert Capa in Cerro Muriano Area and Its Surroundings Located
Two More Pictures Made by Gerda taro in Cerro Muriano and Unknown Till Now Discovered and Located: Moments of PreDeath