martes, 6 de agosto de 2013



The great significance of Córdoba and Andalucía in the professional career of Robert Capa as a war photographer goes on steadily increasing more and more every day. has discovered the authorship and location of another new photograph made by Robert Capa on September 5, 1936

in Villa Alicia estate, approximately 1 km away from Cerro Muriano village (Córdoba Province), in the southwest.

This image appears in the book Spanish People´s Fight For Their Freedom by A. Ramos Oliveira (edited in 1937 by the service of publications of the Spanish Embassy in London), without indicating either the author of the photograph or the exact place in which it was taken.

This picture belongs to the series made by Robert Capa and Gerda Taro in Villa Alicia estate around 12:30 h of midday of September 5, 1936 during the harangue given by two different militiamen chiefs to abundant CNT and FAI anarchist militiamen from Alcoy (Alicante) and other Andalusian civilian combatants who are also present in this spot.

And it is the first picture made by Robert Capa to Enrique Vañó Nicomedes, Secretary of the Alcoy CNT, during his impassioned speech striving after encouraging them before combat, when it´s around half an hour for them to face the Francoist troops from the Army of Africa, coming from Córdoba city, who are about to attack them.

The second picture that Robert Capa gets of Enrique Vañó Nicomedes a few seconds after this one and whose authorship and location was also discovered by is explained in:

It´s truly impressive the degree of embodiment in Robert Capa of what the historian William Manchester called essential instinct for the capturing of great pictures, something that can´t be learnt, you have to be born with it and which first and foremost consists of possessing an intuitive gift for knowing precisely when to push the shutter release button of the camera, a side in which there have been other prominent specialists like Marc Riboud, Werner Bischof, etc.

In this image Capa has photographed Enrique Vañó Nicomedes well into his harangue, with his mouth open and a fiery countenance, speaking in a very loud voice.

These are moments of huge emotional intensity, in which Capa photographs with great mastery and sensitivity what war is about and the cauldron of parallel feelings invading the mind of the ones taking part in it, along with the physical reactions it brings about: the hatred and stress at their utmost degree, the fear of death, the pouring out sweat, the accelerating heart rate, the remembrances of a whole life flowing into the head as a movie, the thinking about the beloved relatives whom they won´t probably see again, their women and children that could be defenceless, etc.

It´s a heartrending and terrible scene, specially apparent in the militiamen located on the right of the picture:

- The militiaman placed under Enrique Vañó Nicomedes´s (who is standing on a large wooden barrel) is drying the saliva flowing profusely through his lips because of the restlessness.

- The militiaman just by him, wearing a clear shirt and dark jacket, has his face slightly upward, but he isn´t looking at Enrique Vañó Nicomedes, but in introspective attitude and highly worried, with his mouth opened and leaning his right elbow and forearm on the wooden cask, while another militiaman placed on his left appears with his arms crossed and not looking at the anarchist chief, but thinking for himself.

- The militiaman located between the one clad in dark jacket and the one with his arms crossed, isn´t looking at the anarchist leader either. He has got his gaze lost, with his eyes slightly oriented towards Bob´s left, his mouth is open and his face gesture reveals tons of anxiety, while the civil fighter in dark beret and white shirt just behind him has his head low and is rubbing his nails because of the nervousness.

- On his turn, the militiaman clad in clear garment located between Enrique Vañó Nicomedes´s left leg and the militiaman wearing dark jacket, is rubbing his face with his left hand as a consequence of the huge jitteriness, concern and also to wipe his sweat off.

- Just behind him we can see an exceedingly young militiaman being approximately 14 years old, with his head under the lower left area of the window of a small truck visible in the background. This teenager´s countenance appears very convulsed and showing great uneasiness, while the militiaman just by him with unshaved stubble of some days, is looking at the speaker with bated breath.

- Finally, another very young militiaman being around 16 years old, is leaning his back on the right forward area of the little truck cabin. He´s wearing clear clothes and a jacket hanging from his left shoulder. This boy is looking anxiously at the anarchist chief giving the harangue, paying top attention to his words, and he will emotionally cave in a few seconds later, moment that will be photographed by Capa in the second picture he gets of Enrique Vañó Nicomedes during his speech and in which can be seen that this same very young militiaman has lowered his head and appears visibly worried.

On the other hand, the picture features two further highly symbolic elements:

a) The nearest militiaman to Capa, wearing clear clothes and appearing in the lower left half of the image (with his upper right arm and his face right side towards the photographer). He is holding a cigarette (perhaps the last one he will be able to smoke). This militiaman with goatee and moustache, will cave in a few seconds later and he will be captured by Capa in deep introspection, probably thinking of his family and with his eyes closed in the second picture he gets of Enrique Vañó Nicomedes just after this one.

b) The left arm (with its hand leaning on the cask) appearing from the lower left side of the picture. It belongs to a CNT anarchist militiaman clad in dark garment who can be seen complete from the waist up in the second photograph that Capa takes of Enrique Vañó Nicomedes during this harangue.

The scene is certainly harrowing and depicts a highly representative moment. This is war photojournalism in its purest essence.

Capa realizes the truly uncommon context: militiamen who are first and foremost civilian combatants coming from the most different occupations (masons, peasants, plumbers, electricians, print workers, carpenters, textile industry workers, cobblers, etc), with barely any military instruction or prowess in the handling of guns, who are going to fight against the professional Francoist troops of the Army of Africa, featuring long combat experience in colonial war in Morocco, and who are manifestly more skillful in the use of firearms, as well as sporting a far superior combat morale and adaptation ability for the circumstances of battles.

In addition, the two exceedingly young militiamen appearing by the little truck (the one on the right being around 14 years old and the one on the right being around 16 years old) have come here by their own choice. They haven´t had childhood and very probably have been working from sunrise to sunset since they were 8 or 9 years old, in the same way as the rest of men appearing in the image, in exchange for miserable salaries, with deplorable working conditions marked by the overcrowding, the lack of hygiene, the high risk of accidents because of the intentional non existence of investment by their eager bosses on the adequate security measures to increase the margins of profits, the lack of any medical insurances, very high illiteracy rates and the steady threat of being dismissed at the minimal protest.

Capa (who is using a Leica II Model D with Leitz Elmar 5 cm f/3.5 lens and a Leica III with Leitz Summar 5 cm f/2) and Gerda Taro (who is also present in Villa Alicia estate and gets some pictures with her medium format 2 ¼ x 2 ¼ Old Standard Rolleiflex with Carl Zeiss Jena 7,5 cm f/3.5) perceive the great photojournalistic, historical and social relevance of what is happening, and inevitably make themselves the question:

What can lead people belonging to civil society to take up arms and risk their lives fighting against professional troops, with a very high probability of being killed in combat?

What makes them pluck up the remarkable courage they need to face a far superior enemy from a military viewpoint and whose high commanding officers have a combat experience in Morocco dating back to early twenties?

This image epitomizes very clearly not only the excellent accuracy in the timing on pressing the shutter release button of the camera, but also photojournalistic compromise to spare, to be in the adequate place and in the adequate moment, remarkable ability to perceive the most defining instants and get great pictures like this one, along with many other things, who made Cornell Capa renounce to his career as a professional photographer to devote his life to the preservation of the immense and historical photographic legacy of his brother.

© José Manuel Serrano Esparza.
Inscribed in the Territorial Registry of the Intellectual Property of Madrid.

Hankou (China), April 29, 1938: Robert Capa Photographs Civil Population Warching Aerial Combats