viernes, 19 de julio de 2019


Text and Indicated Photos : José Manuel Serrano Esparza

                                                                                                     Photo: Robert Capa © ICP New York has been able to find the location of two more pictures made by Robert Capa on September 5, 1936.

                                                                                                             © José Manuel Serrano Esparza

                                                                                                       Photo: Robert Capa © ICP New York

                                                                                                          © José Manuel Serrano Esparza

We have discovered that they were made in the Finca of Villa Alicia, beside the Cortijo of Villa Alicia, located approximately 1 km and 200 meters from the roundabout joining the CP-45 way and the old N-432 Granada-Badajoz way.

They are two 18 x 24 cm vintage prints on photographic paper, donated in 1992 to the International Center of Photography in New York by Cornell Capa and his wife Edie Schwartz, and that were made from the original negatives belonging to one of the 24 x 36 mm format black and white Eastman Kodak Panchromate Nitrate film featuring a Weston 32 sensitivity (roughly equivalent to ISO 40) exposed by Robert Capa on September 5, 1936 with his Leica II (Model D) serial number 90023 coupled to a 4 elements in 3 groups Leitz Elmar 50 mm f/3.5 serial number 133594, designed by Professor Max Berek in Wetzlar (Germany).

These two photographs are very important because they are part of the series of images made by Capa next to the Cortijo of Villa Alicia and whose location we discovered nine years ago, in May of 2010 :

                                                                                                     Photo: Robert Capa © ICP New York                                                                                                               

                                                                                                           Photo: Robert Capa © ICP New York

                                                                                           © José Manuel Serrano Esparza 

Therefore, let´s see the huge significance of these two images belonging to the series of pictures made by Capa to a whole family fleeing from the Cortijo of Villa Alicia :

                                                                                                       Photo: Robert Capa © ICP New York

A) Photograph made by Capa a few meters before reaching the Cortijo of Villa Alicia, shooting his Leica II (Model D) from a very near distance to a roughly 60 year old woman wearing black clothes and silks, mounted on a white donkey and appearing on the left of the image.

This old woman is holding an exceedingly young blonde child ( being approximately one year and a half old and probably her grandson), with her left hand, while taking the animal´s reins (visible in the lower left area of the image) with her right one.

Capa, always paying heed to details making a difference, clearly perceives the stark contrast between the countenance of the old woman (visibly distressed, very upset and with a haunting gaze, because she is bound to run away and leave behind everything she has, her dwelling, her remembrances and many decades of strenuous effort from dusk to dawn, without being able to foresee her future and her family´s one) and the relaxed face of the child, looking at Capa with curiosity, utterly alien to what is happening.

Also in the left half of the image , behind the old woman and her grandson, you can see an approximately 16 year old young boy, clad in a black beret, advancing mounted on another donkey, likewise with an anxious countenance and holding a roughly three year old little girl who is turning her head to the left.

And on the right half of the image can be distinctly seen an around 20 years old alone man riding a horse and also fleeing from the Cortijo of Villa Alicia, following the same direction as the rest of persons appearing in the picture.

From a photographic viewpoint, the image bears Capa´s unmistakable hallmark ; he is at the suitable place, at the adequate moment and approaches as much as possible to subjects.

The Hungarian photojournalist from Jewish descent shoots his 24 x 36 mm format Leica II (Model D) rangefinder camera, probably at f/8, trying to obtain the widest sharpness area feasible, greatly attaining it, though because of the huge proximity from which Capa gets the picture, the old woman and her grandson (who are the closest people to the Leitz Elmar 50 mm f/3.5 lens) appear slightly out of focus, unlike the faces of the two young men advancing behind her, showing a bit more accurate focus.

On the other hand, this image made by Capa features once more a further highly meaningful aspect, typical in him, in addition to a not perfect focus (since it is an instinctive and very fast shot made with his Leica) and that Marc Riboud — one of the most important photojournalist ever, who also used Leica rangefinder cameras — often commented to Cornell Capa in New York throughout decades : the impressive timing precision achieved by Bob when pressing the shutter release button of his cameras.

Take but a short look at the way in which Capa has masterfully captured the majestic walking of the horse with its right leg bent in motion, revealing a huge contained tension in the family, who escape the best they can, because everybody would wish to be running away much faster, even galloping, but the massive presence of old women and children in the group, prevents them from going quicker, in spite of the fact that at the moment in which this image is created, everybody appearing in it is very scared.

Because both the old woman, the children, the two young men, the two donkeys and the horse are hearing the exchange of rifle and machine gun shots taking place between the Republican forces defending the summit of Las Malagueñas Hill (where is located the advanced Republican command post, with majors Juan Bernal, Aviraneta, Armentia and Balibrea) and the middle Francoist column under the command of major Álvarez Rementería attacking uphill its south slope, between the Republican forces defending the crest of Torreárboles hill and the right Francoist column under the command of major Sagrado attacking uphill its south slope, and the tremendous clash happening in the ravine separating the Cerro de la Coja and Las Malagueñas Hill, because the Alcoyanos (militiamen from that village of Alicante province) have pounced on the Tabor of Regulares of Melilla nº3 (under the command of major López Guerrero) and the Squadrons of Regulares of Ceuta nº 3 and Alhucemas (under the command of major Gerardo Figuerola) like a whirlwind and will avoid the encircling manoeuver of the dreaded Moroccan troops for some hours, until being finally annihilated around 22:00 h in the night.

It´s truly praiseworthy how to faithfully depict the drama and horror of war, Capa doesn´t choose to get pictures on front line (with frequent presence of bowels of injured soldiers, blood, amputated limbs, terrible wounds, etc), but mainly focuses on the innocent civil population mostly suffering its aftermath, managing to beget amazing images, fraught with subtle details and hugely eloquent countenances unveiling the very dramatic context being lived by the persons depicted in them.

The people appearing in this image are fleeing from the Cortijo of Villa Alicia, and they have good reasons for it, because albeit at the moment in which Capa gets this picture, there weren´t combats in the Finca of Villa Alicia, this was by far the most dangerous area on September 5, 1936, even more than Las Malagueñas and Torreárboles hills, because the Finca of Villa Alicia was the area through which Francoist attacking troops needed to perform the encircling manoeuver (and no prisoners were taken within it), crossing it to strike the north slope of Torreárboles, only 500 meters beyond the Cortijo of Villa Alicia.

And the Francoist troops from the Army of Africa that attacked Las Malagueñas and Torreárboles hills on September 5, 1936, although very professional and featuring many years of combat experience, were inferior in numbers (roughly 1,500 men) to the Republican effectives (around 3,000 men) defending those heights, so speed in encircling manoeuvers was the key factor for the success of the attacking operation with three columns devised by general Varela, because these highly experienced troops in ruthless colonial war in Africa , were specially prepared to fulfill offensive missions.

On hearing the great proximity of combats between Francoist and Republican forces at those moments, the evacuation of vast majority of the people appearing in the six pictures made by Capa at very few meters from the Cortijo of Villa Alicia on September 5, 1936 between 12:30 h and 13:30 h (it´s difficult to know it with more precision) was organized.

Josefa and Rafael Lozano had bought in 1921 the Finca of Villa Alicia and the Cortijo of Villa Alicia (built in 1912) that had previously been inhabited by the English entrepreneurs and engineers of the Cordoba Copper Company and their families, who betwen 1868 and 1919 (year in which they abandoned their activity) exploited the top quality copper veins of Cerro Muriano, following the activity of other three British companies which had done it between 1897 and 1908.

Rafaela Lozano (Miguel Zamora´s wife), a woman with great courage and working ability, was daughter of Josefa Lozano.

By dint of huge endeavour and perseverance for decades, the Cortijo of Villa Alicia was enlarged and improved after the Spanish Civil War by Rafaela Lozano and Miguel Zamora with the help of their sons Ana and José Agudo, Fuensanta and Andrés García, Marisol, Rafael and Pilar Pastor, Miguel and Amparo García, a labour which was followed by their grandchildren, and the golden wedding anniversary of Rafaela Lozano and Miguel Zamora was celebrated in the Cortijo of Villa Alicia on January 6, 1986. 

But the persons appearing in these pictures made by Capa beside the Cortijo of Villa Alicia are not Josefa Lozano, Rafael Lozano, Rafaela Lozano, Miguel Zamora or any other member of their families, because Josefa Lozano and Rafael Lozano had fled from the Cortjo of Villa Alicia (that they had bought fifteen years before, in 1921, to the Córdoba Copper Company) shortly before the beginning of the Spanish Civil War en July of 1936, in the same way as the rest of their relatives.

                                                                                                    Photo: Robert Capa © ICP New York

B) Photograph made by Robert Capa on September 5, 1936 to an approximately 10 years old girl, a roughly 8 years old boy, an around 3 years old child and an approximately 5 year old girl, all of them, probably siblings, advancing mounted on a white donkey on whose saddle their parents have put a lot of blankets for them to be able to spend the night sleeping outdoors, because they are setting off towards the north exit of Cerro Muriano village, and from there, they will have to go to the Old Obejo Train Station (at a distance of 5 km from the village) and El Vacar (at a distance of 11 km from Cerro Muriano).

Capa moves very quickly and approaches the children to the maximum, with a slight diagonal right angle with respect to them and the donkey.

It´s a very fast shot, slightly out of focus, with a very tight framing, typical in Capa, who strives upon achieving top impact in his images and that they be interesting, depicting defining instants conveying one or more important messages, which, once more, he attains, as well as adding drama, on getting the picture with a strong low angle shooting, to magnify the relevance of these four children as victims of war.

Capa, a man oozing great sensitivity and an indescribable gift to capture meaningful details, even in the most extreme contexts, instantly realizes that the children´s parents (who are taking other very little children in arms) have grasped the danger of fall to the ground during the march for the two smallest children mounted on the white donkey, so they have placed the two older children with a special survival configuration, to reduce that risk to the utmost :

- The older girl (being roughly ten years old) is at the front, with the double mission of leading the donkey with her legs and the reins (which appear near her right knee) and at the same time to oblige the approximately five years old little girl just behind her to strongly grab her arms to her waist.

- The roughly eight year old boy mounting in the rearmost position on the donkey and wearing a clear long sleeved jacket, has got the double mission of grabbing the smallest child (being around three years old) going just in front of him and simultaneously watch the youngest girl (being around five year old, clad in white striped clothes, located behind her elder sister leading the group on the donkey), and he mustn´t lose sight of her even a second, because if for any reason the animal is frightened by the roar of the very near battle and bolts, that little girl would fall on the ground without her elder sister being able to avoid it.

That´s why the around 8 year old boy going in the reamost position on the donkey appears nervously staring at his little sister clad in a striped white attire.

This limit situation bringing about a steady sizable stress in the roughly 8 year old boy mounted the last one on the donkey and on whom mostly depends the security of the youngest two children going on the donkey, stems from the fact that there isn´t any way at the moment in which other fathers, mothers, grandfathers or grandmothers can guard these two little children, since all of them are mounted on other donkeys with other children or walking with other even younger children, some of them babies, in their arms.

There are in the image very powerful diagonal lines made up by the elder boy and girl and the thin tree on the right, in symbiosis with the drama arising from the right arm of the approximately 5 year old girl visibly catching hold of her elder sister´s waist, and the right hand of the youngest child, which because of the movement, has fallen until touching the blanket and is not getting hold of the waist of her little sister wearing striped white clothes.

Evidently, the risk that the two youngest children can fall on the ground from an elevated height is going to be constant during the many kilometers they have to do, and Capa manages to convey the feeling of difficult balance of the four children on the white donkey, along with the hasty flight, symbolized by the naked right foot of the oldest girl, who hasn´t even had enough time to put her shoes on.


After making selective reframings of the left area

                                                                                                    Photo: Robert Capa © ICP New York 

both regarding the picture made by Capa next to the Cortijo of Villa Alicia in which appears a man clad with an Andalusian hat, walking and leading the flight of his family (with some of its members with different ages visible behind him mounted on donkeys and in which the slope of Torreárboles hill in the upper left area of the photograph can also be seen) whose location we discovered in May 2010

                                                                                                     Photo: Robert Capa © ICP New York

and the image starting this article, in which appears a roughly 60 year old woman with a very small blonde child and advancing mounted on a white donkey (while behind her advance an approximately 16 year old boy wearing a black beret on another donkey, who is holding a roughly 3 year old little girl and an approximately 20 year old man, likewise with a beret and going alone mounted on a horse), we have been able to discern that the old woman and the very little blonde child mounted on a white donkey appearing on far left of the second photograph, are exactly the same persons going on a white donkey on far left of the image whose location we discovered in 2010 :

This confirms once more Capa´s great speed of movements when he got the pictures, because after making the first photograph of the family father wearing an Andalusian hat and advancing walking beside a donkey, leading the group and escaping with all of his family advancing behind him mounted on donkeys, the future founder of Magnum Agency (along with Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour " Chim" , George Rodgers and William Vandivert) clearly perceives the facial expression of anxiety in the old woman going with his grandson on the white donkey, so he decides to approach her as much as possible and get a second picture, in such a way that the photojournalist manages to go unnoticed during the photographic act, though the blonde child, relaxed and alien to the dramatic context that is being lived by his family, looks at him with curiosity.


Capa made a total of six pictures beside the Cortijo of Villa Alicia (Cerro Muriano) of people beginning their flight on September 5, 1936 : the four ones previously shown in this article and two more whose location was discovered by us in 2011 next to that Cortijo :

                                                                                                     Photo: Robert Capa © ICP New York

Picture also made by Capa on September 5, 1936 beside the Cortijo of Villa Alicia,  in which can be seen a young man with black beret mounted on a donkey and holding an around four year olf girl (highly probably his daughter). This man is likewise escaping and marching northbound towards Cerro Muriano village, its north exit, the Old Obejo Train Station and El Vacar.

                                                                                                          Photo: Robert Capa

Picture made by Capa on September 5, 1936 at around 300 meters beyond the Cortijo of Villa Alicia, in the direction of Torreárboles hill, whose slope is visible in the background. 

This photograph appears in one of the pages of the illustrated book The Spanish People´s Fight for Liberty, compiled by A. Ramos Oliveira and published in 1937 by the Press Department of the Spanish Embassy in London, without indicating either the authorship or the location where it was made.

                                                                                                            © John Loengrad

After the death of Robert Capa on May 25, 1954 in Thai Binh (Vietnam) on stepping on a mine, Cornell Capa decided to abandon his already prominent career as a photographer and devote his whole life to the preservation of the immense legacy of his brother and to keep his memory alive, founding the ICP of New York in 1974, with the help of his wife

                                                                                                  © José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Edie Schwartz (who had a great discerning ability and visual memory with images and became a very good picture editor working from the contact sheets, as well as having a remarkable organizing talent), Anna Winand (secretary of Cornell Capa, who worked intensively with Edie during many years before 1974 within Cornell´s office in Manhattan, located in Lower Fifth Avenue, classifying and arranging Robert Capa´s huge photographic archive) and Micha Bar-Am.

During the eleven years elapsed since Cornell´s death, many new pictures made by his brother Robert in Cerro Muriano area on September 5, 1936 have appeared, belonging to the three milestone reportages he made there eighty-three years ago : The Harangue in the Finca of Villa Alicia, the Flight of Refugees from the Cortijo of Villa Alicia and The Flight of Refugees from Cerro Muriano Village following north direction towards the Old Obejo Train Station and El Vacar, as a consequence of the intensification of the bombing of the village by the Francoist aviation, to such an extent that there are today approximately a 400% more of images made by Capa in Cerro Muriano area than the ones that were known in 2008, in addition to the fact that the spots where they were made have been found between 2008 and 2019.

The huge effort throughout half a century made by Cornell Capa, Edie Schwartz and Anna Winand wasn´t in vain.

In addition, the huge photographic, human and historical dimension of the creator of Magnum Agency has significantly been enhanced, already in full digital age, by the commendable labour of Cynthia Young (Curator of the Robert Capa Archive at the International Center of Photography in New York City and a great expert in his work) with the extraordinary and landmark worldwide itinerant exhibition The Mexican Suitcase : The Rediscovered Spanish Civil War Negatives of Capa, Chim, Gerda Taro and Fred Stein, which started in 2010, the two volume book bearing the same title, edited by her and published by STEIDL Göttingen including the 4.500 original nitrate 24 x 36 mm negatives and editing other top-notch books on Capa´s photographic work like Capa in Colour, featuring 208 pages and 245 colour pictures having revealed the seminal importance of Robert Capa in the History of Photography, not only in the scope of black and white, but also as a pioneer of colour photography with Kodachrome and Ektachrome films.

But it was in the area of Cerro Muriano where Robert Capa had its fire baptism on September 5, 1936 and it was in this small village approximately 15 km in the north of Cordoba capital where the modern, agile and dynamic war photojournalism

with a very small and light 24 x 36 mm format Leica II (Model D) camera, coupled to an also tiny lens, shooting handheld and without using any tripod, was born.