domingo, 21 de agosto de 2011

GERDA TARO USED TWO DIFFERENT MODELS OF 35 MM LEICA CAMERAS WITH DIFFERENT LENSES BETWEEN MID FEBRUARY 1937 AND HER DEATH ON JULY 26 OF THAT YEAR

Text and Indicated Pictures: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

After a starting stage in which Gerda Taro used in Spain between August 1936 and mid February 1937 a medium format 6 x 6 cm Old Standard Rolleiflex TLR camera with a non coated Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 7,5 cm f/3.5 lens (with which she made her pictures in Barcelona, Aragón Front, Cerro Muriano, Espejo, Málaga and Almería), the German photojournalist from Jewish ascendancy worked with a black lacquer Leica II (Model D) with Nickel Elmar 5 cm f/3.5 lens updated to Leica III (Model F) from mid February 1937 until her death on July 26, 1937 and also with Capa´s chromed Leica III (Model F) and Summar 5 cm f/2 lens (Bob had also used the still not converted Weisz´s Leica II Model D between November 18 - November 5, 1936 during his first trip to Madrid alone sent by Regards, and also during his brief stay in the Spanish capital in January 1936, likewise sent by the same French magazine) since the last day of May of 1937 (because Bob had changed to a Zeiss Ikon Contax II with Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 5 cm f/2 lens between May 20-25 1937 when he could get that camera in Paris with funds of his own and some advanced money given to him by Richard de Rochemond, Director of the European branch of the documentary movie series The March of Time and also of the Time Inc. delegation in the French capital, as a payment of the publication of his pictures in Life) until her demise, simultaneously using both cameras from May 31,1937, day in which Capa and Taro (who had just been in Valencia on her own) met in Navacerrada port, near Segovia (Capa had taken an aircraft in Paris on May 27, 1937 to come back to Spain again, and had been lodged in the Florida Hotel of Madrid between May 27 afternoon and May 30).

This discovery made by elrectanguloenlamano.blogspot.com has been the outcome of two years of research in which since October 2009 we started from the significant findings made during 2007 by Richard Whelan, top expert on Robert Capa and Alfred Stieglitz of all time, and Irme Schaber, biographer of Gerda Taro and the greatest specialist in the world on the German photojournalist, which we complemented with the study during 2011 of one of the photographs of the Mexican Suitcase, in which Gerda Taro appears on the right of a picture made by Capa in the University City of Madrid in mid February 1937, which was found by the ICP of New York on opening its content, which was firstly kept safe by Chiki Weisz in 1939 and ultimately saved by the cinema director and curator Trisha Ziff, who managed to recover it in México D.F, his son Julio subsequently delivering the photographic and historical treasure of pictures to Cornell Capa, in a highly emotive act, on December 19, 2007, at the International Center of Photography of New York, 68 years after Robert Capa escaped from France to New York on board of the Manhattan ship on October 15, 1939, and one year after the demise in 2006 in México City at the age of 95 years old of Chiki Weisz, Capa´s great friend from childhood, his darkroom man and the person who developed vast majority of the 4,500 negatives from the 126 rolls of film contained in the three boxes of the Mexican Suitcase.

In the excellent book Gerda Taro ICP Steidl edited by Irme Schaber, Richard Whelan and Kristen Lubben (Associate Curator of the ICP New York), it began to be clearly proved that the photojournalist role performed by Gerda Taro had been greater than thought and that some pictures attributed to Capa for decades had really been made by Gerda Taro, though the credit Robert Capa appeared often on the back of the vintage copies, because from a commercial viewpoint Capa and Taro worked as a team and they had agreed ( after a suggestion by Taro, who greatly became his promoter since they began their relationship) that the pictures would bear the name of Robert Capa, trying to sell more, in such a way that the photographic agencies Alliance Photo Paris, Pix Incorporated New York and Black Star (representative of Alliance Photo in United States) also followed usually that practice, equally because of purely commercial reasons.

In the aforementioned superb book, Richard Whelan expressed his conviction that Gerda Taro had used a Leica roughly from February 20, 1937. Sadly, shortly before the book was published, the Legendary Maestro died in late May 2007.

Two years elapsed since then, and in October 2009 we thought that it was necessary trying to find out the exact type of Leica camera and lens used by Gerda Taro from the moment in which she changed from medium format to 35 mm format, to be able to follow as much as possible the photojournalistic track of Gerda Taro during her last five months and a half of life, above all regarding her way of taking pictures, so elrectanguloenlamano.blogspot.com set about an investigation which has extended for almost two years and at the end of which we have been able to discover that Gerda Taro didn´t use a Leica as thought until now, but two different models of Leicas with different lenses attached to them.


The intensive study during late 2009, the whole 2010 and the first months of 2011 of a lot of rectangular pictures taken by Taro from mid February 1937, which appear in the previously quoted book Gerda Taro ICP Steidl and were made in the University City of Madrid, Cibeles statue area, French Bridge, Jarama Front, Valencia Recruitment and Training of New People´s Army, Valencia Funeral of General Lukacs, Valencia Air Raid Victims, Segovia Front, Workers in a Munitions Factory in Madrid, Dinamiteros in Carabanchel Neighbourhood, La Granjuela, Second International Congress for the Defense of Culture in Valencia, Guadalajara and Madrid, and Battle of Brunete, together with the analysis during 2011 of one of the photographs of The Mexican Suitcase taken by Capa in the University City of Madrid in mid February 1936 (in whose center we can see an officer of the International Brigades with a rifle, wearing a military cap and campaign boots walking down the wood stairs of a defensive position, smiling at Capa, while on the nearest area to the far right border of the frame appears Gerda Taro wearing black jersey and skirt and a clear gaberdine, who isn´t looking at Bob, but seems to be waiting for him to get the picture), have enabled elrectanguloenlamano.blogspot.com to discover the first model of Leica camera and lens used by Taro during her career as a photographer.

Photo: Robert Capa. © ICP New York

Probably, the appearance of Gerda Taro inside the frame was due to the field of view seen through the viewfinder of his chromed Leica III and Summar 5 cm f/2, because in this type of rangefinder cameras, it is inferior in extension to the actual size of the 24 x 36 mm negative, so with these RF models things or persons that weren´t seen by the photographer while he was making the picture can subsequently appear in the images more easily than with reflex cameras.

The camera held by Gerda Taro in her hands is a black lacquer Leica II Model D updated to Leica III (you can watch the small independent dial for slow shutter speeds - the Leica II Model D lacks it- ) connected to a Leitz Elmar 5 cm f/3.5 lens.

It is a sample probably made in 1932, because that year were made 21,970 black lacquered Leicas II (Model D) from a total of 35,886 units of black lacquered Leicas II (Model D) manufactured in Wetzlar between 1932 and 1936.

We do believe that it is the black lacquered Leica II (Model D) with Elmar 5 cm f/3.5 property of Chiki Weisz (the expert Capa and Taro´s great friend and trustworthy darkroom man in Paris, who developed their negatives and made both the very important contact sheets and the vintage copies), which was lent by this to Gerda Taro in the first week of February of 1937 in Paris ( this camera, still not converted, had already been used by Capa during his two trips alone to Madrid in November-December 1936 and January 1937) in order that she could increase her production of images while going on covering the Spanish Civil War (both she and Capa were about to come back to Spain on approximately February 12 1937, successively going to Málaga and Almería mountain ranges and Murcia until February 17, 1937; then to Jarama Front, Arganda Bridge and Morata de Tajuña - February 18 and 19, 1937-; and then to University City of Madrid - between February 20, 1937 and March 2, 1937, when Bob had to come back to Paris-), because until that moment, Taro had used in Spain a 6 x 6 cm medium format Rolleiflex Old Standard with a non coated Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 7,5 cm f/3.5, with which she could only make 12 exposures with each 120 roll, while with the Leica she was able to make 36 exposures with each 35 mm roll of film. 




In the beginning of 1937, Capa was already a famous photographer, so there were a lot of illustrated publications that asked images made by him in the Spanish Civil War, which was at that moment with difference the epicenter of media attention all over the world. Chiki Weisz spent most of his time inside Capa´s studio at 37 Rue Froidevauz in Paris, developing Bob and Taro´s rolls of film, making the contacts and vintage copies and sending negatives and copies from the chosen pictures to the illustrated magazines and photographic agencies constantly asking them pictures.

Evidently, their situation had greatly improved insofar as their initial context, since after all, Bob, Chiki Weisz and Gerda Taro were political refugees: Capa had arrived in Paris with his great friend from childhood Chiki Weisz in September of 1933, fleeing from nazism (he had worked in Dephot Agency in Berlin during the two previous years), so their beginnings were very hard, lodging in an attic of the humble Hôtel Lhomond of the Latin Quarter, quickly running out of money, in such a way that to be able to survive and gain time, they were bound to make some small thefts of food in a grocery near the Rue Mouffetard.

On her turn, Gerda Taro start in Paris wasn´t easy either, but rather full of lacks: in the beginning of October 1933, so as to avoid the ´protective custody´ decreed by the Nazi government against her, she had to flee from Leipzig (Germany) to the French capital, where she could hire a very lowly room in a hostal of Port Royal Square, managing to find a job as a secretary of the psychoanalist René Spitz. Then, she met Capa - who was the person that infused her with the passion for photography- in 1934 and in April of 1935, Fred Stein (who would within shortly time turn into one of the most prominent photographers of all time on portraits with ambient light along with Alfred Eisenstaedt) and her wife Lilo Stein helped Gerda Taro very much, lodging her in their house of the Rue Colaincourt, where Gerda worked as Fred Stein´s darkroom assistant (Fred Stein was also an expert laboratory man, featuring a comprehensive culture).

But now, at the start of the year 1937, the best illustrated Europen magazines of the time (Vu, Regards, Ce Soir, The Illustrated London News, Picture Post, Schweizer Illustrierte Zeitung, Weekly Illustrated) and the American Life, the world standard of quality then, and acknowledged photographic agencies as Alliance Photo Paris, Black Star (representative of Alliance Photo in USA), Pix, etc, were very interested in Capa and Taro images.

And albeit the strategy - incepted by Gerda Taro - was that all the pictures, including the ones made by herself had to bear the credit Robert Capa with the aim of trying to sell more, it was clear that Taro was performing an increasingly important role.


Nobody knew this better than Chiki Weisz, for he was the person who developed the film rolls exposed by Capa and Taro, likewise making the contact sheets and copies, so he was utterly aware Gerda Taro had made a lot of excellent pictures with her medium format 6 x 6 cm Rolleiflex Old Standard since August of 1936, when she started her coverage of the Spanish Civil War.

But in the beginning of 1937, Chiki Weisz and Robert Capa suggested Gerda Taro to change to a rangefinder Leica, because for commercial reasons it was necessary that the team Capa / Taro increased their yield of pictures, each of them using a different Leica. Capa had already his own, a chromed Leica III (Model F) 1933-1939 with a Summar 5 cm f/2, and it wasn´t possible at that moment to buy either a new or second hand Leica for Taro (the price was very steep then) so Chiki Weisz, a sensitive and discreet man, already utterly devoted to darkroom work in Paris, lent his Leica II (Model D) with Elmar 5 cm f/3.5 -recently converted to Leica III- to Gerda Taro, and from that moment on, she had a much more compact, light and versatile photographic gear, exceedingly appropriate to the war reportages she had been making in Spain since August 1936.


REASONS FOR THE CHANGE

During the first stage of her coverage of the Spanish Civil War, between August 1936 and the two first weeks of February 1937, Gerda Taro used the medium format 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 Rolleiflex Old Standard Model 622 with a non coated Carl Zeiss Jena 7,5 cm f/3.5, with which she made very good pictures in Barcelona (August 1936), Aragón Front (August 1936), Cerro Muriano (September 1936), Espejo (September 1936), Málaga (first week of February 1937) and Almería ( on board of the batteleship Jaime I, during the second week of February 1937), which were published in important illustrated magazines of the time like Regards, Ce Soir, The London Illustrated News, etc.


But the sort of war photojournalism made by Gerda Taro in Spain until that moment with her medium format Old Standard Rolleiflex featured a number of significant drawbacks greatly limiting not only her photographic production, but also the comfort, efficiency and speed of movements, owing to the following different reasons:

a) In comparison with the screwmount rangefinders Leica II (Model D) and Leica III (Model F), with a weight of 406 g and measures of 133 x 67 x 33 mm, the medium format 6 x 6 cm Rolleiflex Old Standard Model 622 with its weight of 778 g and measures of 146 x 86 x 90 mm was much more bulky and heavy, which brought about a bigger use fatigue and a faster wearing out in the photographer, because the quickness of movements, the anticipation, the accurate timing on pressing the shutter release button, to approach the most you can to the core of the action and being in the suitable place and moment are the basic components of the war photojournalism. 

Jim Lager, top authority in the world regarding the History of Leica Cameras, Lenses and Accessories, holding in his hands a black lacquer Leica II (Model D) with Leitz Elmar 5 cm f/3.5 lens, FISON shade and UV Filter, updated to Leica III. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Another view of Jim Lager with the same camera and lens between his hands. The amazingly small size and weight of LTM Leica cameras and lenses for the time (even currently in XXI Century) was a very valuable feature in the golden times of spreading of photojournalism during thirties of XX Century. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

b) The remarkably small size and weight for the period of screwmount rangefinder Leicas, which used 35 mm film, along with their highly luminous lenses like the Leitz Summar 5 cm f/2 and even the Elmar 5 cm f/3.5 - featuring a good maximum aperture of diaphragm for the time being- made that handheld shots, even at very low shutter speeds was the natural environment of these revolutionary cameras, which got sharp pictures, without trepidation, taking photographs with hand and wrist in dim light or indoors, became a cinch, something very important then to save pictures, because the chemical emulsions of the period, both in 35 mm and in medium format, had a sensitiveness around Weston 32, equivalent to ISO 40, so it was much more critical, cumbersome and above all small to take photographs with a medium format Rolleiflex in the dynamic genre of war photojournalism than with a 35 mm Leica.

c) The Rolleiflex Old Standard 622 required the use of waist level viewing shade, a watching system being far less accurate and much slower than in one Leica II (Model D) or Leica III (Model F), whose built-in rangefinder, though not being combined with the viewfinder, enabled a more exact focusing and a much quicker handling of use than with a Rolleiflex.

d) The lack of a tilting mirror meant to practical effects a further advantage for the rangefinder Leicas, because the absence of a mirror bump gave rise to a much smoother action of the shutter release button than in the Rolleiflex, which sported almost double the weight of the Leicas.

It is true that the Rolleiflex Old Standard hasn´t a moving mirror and VF blackout in the moment of making the picture either (the mirror sported by this MF camera is fixed, with the upper lens Heidoscop Anastigmat 7,5 cm f/3.1 being the one showing the image through the viewfinder and the Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 7,5 cm f/3.5 located under it exposing the film), but it was much bigger and heavier, with a much larger metal Compur central shutter, whose working brought about a higher vibration in the camera on shooting handheld, it all increasing the risk of blurred picture

e) The possibility of attaching the Leica a vast array of interchangeable lenses of different focal lengths, with which the versatility of use of the camera rose a great deal.

f) The discretion, since the rubberized horizontal travel focal plane shutter of the LTM Leicas allows an exceedingly silent shot, practically imperceptible (which turns into another important virtue in war photojournalism, both in the front lines and at rearguard, making the coverage of the civil population affected by warlike conflicts, etc) unlike the shutter release of Taro´s Rolleiflex Old Standard, which was much noisier and easily located the German photojournalist, who from the very moment of holding the large size MF camera between her hands wasn´t unnoticed at all.

g) The film advance lever of the Leica II (Model D) and Leica III (Model F) was stronger and particularly boasted a faster handling than the crank of the Rolleiflex, which had to make advance inside the camera body a 400% bigger than 35 mm negative. Therefore, Leicas held clearly the upper hand in terms of shooting rate.

h) The lower production cost using 35 mm Nitrate panchromatic cinematographic film which enabled 36 exposures with each 35 mm film inside a Leica camera, while the medium format 120 roll of film inside the Rolleiflex only had 12 exposures of 6 x 6 cm, so the risk of running out of film in the middle of a good photographic essay or of having to lose a very valuable time to change the roll of film in the crunch time of the action was far greater with the Rolleiflex than with a screwmount Leica.

Consequently, while Gerda Taro used the medium format Rolleiflex Old Standard, she was always bound to select to the maximum the pictures she made, working under difficult and stressful conditions with a MF camera more suitable for studio photography or outdoor landscapes. On the other hand, medium format film was more expensive than 35 mm, and each 120 roll held a 300% less of exposures than a 35 mm roll, so MF could be profitable for corporations, very consolidated magazines and international photographic agencies wishing the maximum quality of reproduction, but for the team made by Capa, Gerda Taro and Chiki Weisz, the quality given by the 35 mm format and the high luminosity Leitz lenses ( very good ones, though without reaching to the then unbeatable quality of image delivered by the Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 5 cm f/1.5 and Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 5 cm f/2 designed by Ludwig Bertele for the rangefinder Contaxs) was more than enough to offer their images to the many illustrated magazines of the time very interested on war pictures, without forgetting that the prowess of Chiki Weisz, getting Bob and Taro´s top-notch original negatives and first class vintage prints featuring flat, glossy ferrotyped surfaces, draw the full potential of each 24 x 36 mm negative. To all intents and purposes, the most important thing for Capa and Taro was to get the pictures, and the technical perfection of them was not the key factor in the thriving war photojournalism of those days.


THE UPDATING FROM LEICA II (MODEL D) TO LEICA III (MODEL F) FOR GERDA
TARO
Evidently, the Leica II (Model D) which began its production in February 1932, was a superb camera for the time, which became a turning point in the history of rangefinder Leicas, for it was one of the best products made by the Leitz Wetzlar team directed by Oskar Barnack and the first Leica camera to have a built-in rangefinder coupled to the lens focusing mechanism until two images coincide through the classic system of two images overlapping into only one.

Leica II (Model D) from 1932, property of Lars Netopil, a world class expert on Leica cameras and lenses. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

This was a great breakthrough, because both with its predecessor Leica Standard (Model E) and other previous Leica cameras, you had either to guess the distance to focus or attach an RF to the top of your camera to measure the distance, and once you had found the range, you had to manually transfer the distance to the lens using the distance scale on both the RF and the objective.

Hence, though the RF and VF windows were not integrated with each other, the Leica II (Model D) boasted an internal and coupled rangefinder, and the photographers needed only one easy movement to find range and properly focus the lens. 


Black Lacquered Leica II (Model D) with Leitz Elmar 5 cm f/3.5, FISON shade and UV Filter updated to Leica III (Model F) on the chest of Toru Tanaka, a knowledgeable user of Leica RF cameras and enthusiast of B & W Photography with classical screwmount Leicas. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Therefore, the RF and VF had separate windows and you had to focus with one and after it, you moved your eye to the VF to compose the image. It is true that this system, though being very good and exceptional for the thirties, doesn´t reach the accuracy and mechanical thoroughness of Robert Eckhardt and Erich Mandler starting designs for later Leica M brightline frame viewfinders or Willi Keiner masterpiece range viewfinders with optics computed for Leica M2 or M3, with painstaking attention on the effect of VF magnification on the effective measuring base.

But the Leica II (Model D) has two important advantages compared for example to a Leica M6 or Leica M9: its separate rangefinder means in practice that you can increase the magnification to get an easier focusing (for example, the magnification of the Leica II Model D is 1x, even exceeding the formidable 0.92 x VF of the Leica M3), and besides, this was a camera conceived for optimum performance with a 50 mm standard lens (it was possible to use other lenses of different focal lengths by means of a slew of external viewfinders), so connected to an Elmar 5 cm f/3.5 lens, this camera is a real performer.


Toru Tanaka holding his Leica II (Model D) with Elmar 5 cm f/3.5 lens, FISON shade and UV Filter converted to Leica III (Model F). Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

This camera sports an independent viewfinder (showing a reduced image) and a rangefinder, with a separation of 37 mm between both eyepieces. On the other hand, the Elmar 50 mm f/3.5, designed by Max Berek in 1924, in spite of not being so luminous as the Summar 50 mm f/2 which was attached to Bob´s chromed Leica III (Model F) 1933-1939, offered a very wide diaphragm for the time and was the only Leiz lens able to compete in optical quality with the then virtually unbeatable Bertele´s Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 5 cm f/1.5 and Carl Zeiss Jena 5 cm f/2, although the great compactness and very light weight of the Elmar - 125 g - also turned it into a powerful weapon for handheld shooting. Albeit not being so luminous as the Xenon 5 cm f/1.5, the Summar 5 cm f/2 or the Hektor 5 cm f/2.5, the amazing compactness and very low weight of the Elmar 5 cm f/3.5 enabled it to save pictures and get enough sharpness under dim light conditions outdoors and subdued indoors, greatly making up for the low sensitiveness of the panchromatic nitrate films used during thirties.

Obviously, it wasn´t so apt for these tasks as the Leitz or Zeiss f/1.5 and f/2 lenses, but it fared rather well in this scope because of its tiny dimensions and weight which made an exceedingly small combo when attached to the Leica II (Model D).

But the Leica III (Model F) 1933-1939 - which was the model Capa had been using in Spain since August 1936 offered some significant advantages over the Leica II (model D):

1) Aside from the normal dial for shutter speeds between 1/20 seg and 1/500 seg, located on top of the camera by the shutter release button, the Leica III features a small dial for the selection of slow speeds (1/8 s, 1/4 s, 1/2 s, 1 s and T position) placed on the camera front, on the right of the upper area of the lens mount, while the Leica II (Model D) only sports the usual dial for speeds between 1/20 s and 1/500 s. 



Therefore, the Leica III (Model F) was a much more valuable camera to save pictures shooting handheld under low light conditions. And the independent dial for slow speeds was for example what enabled Gerda Taro - once made the updating from Chiki Weisz Leica II (Model D) to Leica III (Model F) to make some indoor photographs during her coverage of the II Congress of Writers in the sessions celebrated in Madrid, Guadalajara and Valencia in July 1937, probably made handheld at 1/8 s and a few of them even at 1/4 s supporting her back on a firm base.

2) Compared to the VF 1x magnification of the Leica II (Model D), the VF magnification of the Leica III (Model F) had been increased to 1.5x.


3) The Leica III (Model F) had got carrying strap lugs for transport.

SECOND MODEL OF LEICA CAMERA AND LENS USED BY GERDA TARO IN SPAIN
Betwen 20-25 May 1937, Robert Capa managed to acquire a Zeiss Contax II, the best 35 mm rangefinder camera in the world at those moments, with a Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 5 cm f/2.

This new choice of photographic gear by Capa made a lot of sense, since for him the most important thing over technical sides was always to get the picture, and for the sort of war photojournalism he made, the rangefinder Contax II was undoubtedly the best professional picture taking tool at that moment, because of a number of important reasons:

a) Unlike his chromed Leica III (Model F) sporting separate RF and VF windows, it featured a rangefinder and viewfinder combined into one finder, which was much brighter and larger than all the Leica cameras available then (this feature wouldn´t appear in a Leica camera until the 1954 M3, seventeen years later).

Bob knew that this combined viewfinder and rangefinder of the Contax II meant in practice a lot of advantages to the way he took pictures, in which to be in the appropriate place in the adequate moment, the speed of movements, anticipation, accurate timing on pressing the shutter realease button and quick focusing were the essential ingredients. With the Contax II he could work much better, faster and more comfortably, reducing fatigue and incresing the rate of good photographs, without forgetting that the Carl Zeiss Jena 5 cm f/2 lens was far superior in optical performance to the Summar 5 cm f/2 (yet a very good lens if the sample has the front element in good condition), speacially regarding sharpness, flare resistance and wide aperture rendering.

b) The rangefinder of the Contax II was much longer (an amazing 90 mm baselength with a magnification of 0.75 x) and accurate on focusing, because it used two wedges rotating while attaining the RF focus, instead of the single mirror typical in the LTM Leicas, so it avoided the misalignment of the RF to much greater extent.

c) The loading and unloading of the Contax II was much easier and faster, thanks to its removable back.

d) The photographer was able to change speeds both before and after the camera had been wound, by means of a great technical brealthrough for the time: a shutter dial boasting a single non rotating mechanism which combined the advance knob with the shutter speed dial. Different to the screwmount Leicas shutters, the one sported by the Contax II was a metal vertical travel one, which prevented sun beams from burning a hole in the shutter.

And truth is that though being a great enthusiast of Leica cameras like David Seymour Chim and Henri Cartier-Bresson, the Zeiss Contax II was Capa´s preferred camera throughout his life, along with the legendary Nippon Kogaku rangefinders (he would die in Thai Binh, Vietnam, with a Contax II with b & w film and grabbing a Fuji film loaded Nikon S in his hand when he stepped on the mine).

From late May 1937 on, Capa had also to handle a cinematographic 35 mm Eyemo camera (lent to him by Richard de Rochemond in Paris), so he lent Gerda Taro his chromed Leica III (Model F) 1933-1939 with Summar 5 cm f/2 which he had been using in Spain since August 1936.


This is the camera held in her hands by Taro in a picture whose author is unknown and which was taken near Guadalajara Front in July of 1937.

Gerda Taro photographed with Capa´s chromed Leica III (Model F 1933-1939) and Summar 5 cm f/2 lens. It mustn´t be excluded the possibility that this camera - in the same way as the black lacquered Leica II (Model E) with an Elmar 5 cm f/3.5 lens and updated to Leica III- had originally been a chromed Leica II (Model D) acquired by Bob between 1933 and 1936 and updated to Leica III adding the dial for slow speeds between 1 second and 1/20 seconds, the increase of the rangefinder magnification up to 1.5 x and the attachment of the two rings for transport strap on both sides of the camera.

Probably, both the black lacquered Leica II Model D with Elmar 5 cm f/3.5 lens updated to Leica III and the chromed Leica III with Summar 5 cm f/2 lens with which Gerda Taro appears in this enlargement of the previous picture and with which Gerda Taro worked respectively from mid February 1937 and late May 1937 (Capa used from late May 1937 a Contax II rangefinder camera with a Carl Zeiss Jena 5 cm f/2 lens, along with a 35 mm Eyemo movie camera), were delivered to Capa after the death of Gerda Taro at the English Hospital of El Goloso in El Escorial, after being accidentally run over by a T-26 tank near Villanueva de la Cañada during the Battle of Brunete, when she was covering the area as a photojournalist, being accompanied by Ted Allan, a political comissar of Dr. Bethune´s Medical Unit.

After watching a lot of 2:3 aspect ratio rectangular pictures made by Taro from 1937 on and included in the book Taro ICP Steidl published in 2007, and after a thorough analysis of the vintage copies of photographs made by Taro from mid February 1937, donated by Edith and Robert Capa to the ICP, printed in 4:3 aspect ratio (albeit stemming from Leica 24 x 36 mm original negatives) and also reproduced in the aforementioned book , we have reached the conclusion that Taro used two lenses to make them: sometimes she used a Leitz Elmar 5 cm f/3.5 attached to a Leica II (Model D) and other times she used a Leitz Summar 5 cm f/2 attached to Bob´s Leica III (Model F) , because the aesthetics of image of both lenses is different, in the same way as their resistance to flare, bokeh, rendering in the corners, vignetting, etc.

Copyright Text and Indicated Pictures: José Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSA
Inscribed in the Territorial Registry of the Intellectual Property of Madrid

Other articles on Gerda Taro:

Gerda Taro: Centenary of Her Birth and Identification on a September 5, 1936 Picture made in Cerro Muriano Area
Gerda Taro in Brunete Battle and Last Pictures Taken by the Photojournalist Before being Run Over by a Tank on July 25, 1937

Cerro Muriano: A New Photograph Made by Capa or Gerda Taro on September 5, 1936 Found and Located

Two More Pictures Made by Gerda Taro in Cerro Muriano and Unknown Till Now Discovered and Located: 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

La Granjuela (Córdoba) : Gerda Taro June 1937

Valsequillo (Córdoba) : Gerda Taro Early July 1937. Locations of the Photographs and Identification of the Photojournalist in One of the Images