sábado, 24 de agosto de 2013

LOS BLÁZQUEZ (CÓRDOBA) 1937 : DISCOVERED THE ACCURATE LOCATION OF THREE PHOTOGRAPHS MADE BY GERDA TARO

SPANISH

Los Blázquez (Córdoba), seen from the imposing rock outcrop of the Piedra Zuchá. This beautiful village, placed in the northwest of the Cordovan range, was visited by Gerda Taro in mid May 1937.

After a bit more than two years of a research that we started in July 2011, elrectanguloenlamano.blogspot.com has been able to find the accurate location in which Gerda Taro made three pictures inside the village of Los Blázquez (Córdoba).

These images appear on page 201 of the two volume book The Mexican Suitcase, edited by ICP/Steidl and that includes 4,500 35 mm contacts of photographs made by Fred Stein (in Paris in 1936) along with Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and David Seymour ´Chim´ between 1936 and 1939, during the Spanish Civil War in different fronts and cities, and whose original negatives were developed by Csiki Weisz in Paris.

The three pictures dealt on in this article, in which appear a young Republican soldier sitting on a chair (with another unoccupied chair visible beside him) and equipped with a Mosquetón Mauser caliber 7 x 57 mm (in whose barrel muzzle there´s a flower probably introduced by Gerda Taro) and specific 40 cm long bayonet with leather sheath and metallic ends stuck to the belt through a baldric and clamps

                             Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York.

                                 Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

                             Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

were made inside the village of Los Blázquez, specifically  in the middle area of Fuentes Street, one of the oldest in the township.

                 Current middle area of Fuentes Street in Los Blázquez.

Gerda Taro went to Los Blázquez in mid May 1937 to photograph the International Brigades troops (namely the Henri Vuillemin battalion, belonging to the XIII International Brigade, mostly made up by French and Belgian combatants) that a few weeks before, during the afternoon of April 5, 1937, had reconquered the village after hard fight against the Francoist troops, as a part of a scheme that also included the capture of Valsequillo (April 4, 1937) and La Granjuela (April 5, 1937 in the morning), with these three villages making up a triangle that together with Fuenteobejuna could be used as a platform for a further attack on Peñarroya, in the hands of the Francoist troops and which was a top priority target for the Republican high commanders because of its great mining wealth.

The fight between Republican and Francoist troops for Los Blázquez was so fierce from April 1937 to very few months before the end of the war, that even on January 7, 1939, the Republican XXII Army Corps was able to assault Los Blázquez and capture it again after hard struggle house by house against the Francoist troops, albeit they didn´t manage to seize Peñarroya, defended very stubbornly by the 60ª, 112ª and 122ª divisions. 

THREE INTERESTING PHOTOGRAPHS
Though the three images don´t show action, since there weren´t any combats either in Los Blázquez or its surroundings at those moments, they´re highly informative, because they clearly depict which was the village situation then, utterly occupied by Republican forces and International Brigades.

The photograph in which can be seen a good part of the middle zone of Fuentes Street is specially meaningful,

                            Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

because we can watch the Republican soldier sitting on it, while on the upper left half of the picture there are three standing women (one of them is holding a child in her arms) and an also standing child being approximately 6 years old and wearing dark short trousers.

Likewise, we can see a Republican soldier wearing a Elizabethan cap with tassle (visible just behind the child clad in a clear garment who is held in her arms by her mother wearing a black dress); a Republican soldier wearing a dark overalls, walking with his back to Taro´s camera and going to the end of the street; and an old woman dressed in a dark garment and grabbing a wicker basket in her left hand.

Moreover, the image stands out because of the presence of a Republican officer wearing a military peaked cap, appearing very near the upper left border of the picture, walking through the middle of the street and passing by the old woman with dark attire, advancing following a direction slightly on the left of the spot on which is Gerda Taro with her Leica III rangefinder camera and her non coated Leitz Summar 5 cm f/2 lens.

On the other hand, it´s likewise relevant the photograph in which appears the same Republican soldier sitting on the chair, with a woman on his right holding a baby wrapped in a blanket while an around 4 years old child (probably her elder son) stands with a metallic hoop around his hips, because in spite of the static and lacking movement nature of the picture, the war context is highly latent by means of the contrast between the standing mother with both of her sons and the soldier resting on the chair, equipped with a 1916 Mauser 7 x 57 mm rifle and a lethal bayonet featuring a length of almost 40 cm and a stainless-steel blade with a grooved surface on each of its faces, which is able to make terrible wounds in hand to hand combat.

Taro, a woman sporting remarkable sensitivity and insight, realizes it and gets the flower into the gun as a peace message, conceptually anticipating in three decades the meaningful symbolism of famous pictures like Young Girl with Flower taken by Magnum Agency photographer Marc Riboud (depicting the seventeeen years old student Jan Rose Kasmir showing a daisy to soldiers trying to stop a demostration using rifles with their bayonets sheathed) or the also well-known image Flower Power taken by the Washington Star photographer Bernie Boston to the New York eighteen years old actor George Harris putting flowers inside the barrel muzzles of assault rifles handled by antidemonstration military policemen) made in 1967 during the protests in Washington against Vietnam War.

The photojournalist captures the atmosphere reigning supreme in Los Blázquez, where Republican forces and civil population live together sharing their daily existence the best they can bearing in mind the circumstances, because this township was for a long time, in an uninterrupted way, very near the combats front in the area between April 5, 1937 (date of the capture of the village by the Henri Vuillemin Battallion of the XIII International Brigade) and January 26, 1939 (when the Francoist 74ª Division took definitely Los Blázquez) and that the village itself was scenery of some bloody clashes throughout a period of almost two consecutive years.

That´s why Los Blázquez was badly damaged during the Spanish Civil War and it had to be greatly rebuilt by the Program of Devastated Regions which was applied after the end of the war and lasted until 1957, so there were some inevitable changes in the outline of its streets, above all narrowing the sidewalk (whose surface is nowadays much more reduced than during thirties, since the traffic of particular cars was then almost non existent).

CAMERA AND LENS USED
Gerda Taro used a Leica III with a 6 elements in 4 groups non coated Leitz Summar 5 cm f/2 lens, without shade and whose front element featured some cleaning marks.




76 YEARS LATER
Seventy-six years have elapsed since the German photojournalist of Jewish descent Gerda Taro was getting pictures both inside Los Blázquez village and its surroundings.

Currently, Los Blázquez, placed 97 km in the northwest of Córdoba capital, is a township with a population of around 800 inhabitants, whose economy is mostly based on agriculture and stockbreeding, without forgetting the production of top-drawer oils like the one manufactured by the Las Cinco Villas traditional olive cooperative.

On the other hand, Los Blázquez is prominent because of the abundant landscapes framing this Cordovan township located between Los Pedroches and the High Guadiato.

Even sometimes, when the night falls

Los Blázquez seen from the Piedra de la Zuchá, ten minutes before nightfall.

emotion can reach unutterable peaks imaging Gerda Taro taking pictures in Los Blázquez and its surroundings three generations ago, two months before her death crushed by a T-26B tank in the north outskirts of Villanueva de la Cañada on July 25, 1937, during the last day of Brunete Battle.


And at 4:00 a.m, when silence rules in Los Blázquez, 76 years later, the feelings are truly indescribable.

Copyright Text and Indicated Photographs: José Manuel Serrano Esparza