sábado, 20 de mayo de 2017

La Granjuela in The Mexican Suitcase: A Further Unforgettable Allurement of the XV Córdoba International Biennal of Photography


The itinerant exhibition The Mexican Suitcase, the most important photographic display in the XXI Century hitherto, has been a part of the XV Córdoba International Biennal of Photography, six years and a half after its premiere at the ICP of New York in September 2010, which makes up an unprecedented success, since the city has curretnly a population of 325,000 inhabitants, in comparison to other large European and United States metropolitan hubs with a much bigger size, millions of residents and available resources galore.

Once more, the many thousands of visitors have been able to watch live a comprehensive assortment of the images setting up this priceless historical treasure and which includes 4,500 original negatives in superb preservation condition of pictures made during the Spanish Civil War by Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and David Seymour Chim (in addition to a few ones made in Paris by Fred Stein) in Barcelona, Madrid, Córdoba, Bilbao, Valencia, Guadalajara, Asturias, Brunete, El Jarama, Río Segre, etc, with a wide showing of contact sheets, framed enlargements of the most representative photographs, vintage original magazines, original press cards, etc.

Inside the Vimcorsa Exhibition Room at the c/ Ángel de Saavedra, 9 in Córdoba. Diagonal view of one of the impressive 3 x 2 meters mural with a sheet of 12 amazingly big contacts made from the digitized original 35 mm Eastman Kodak II Nitrate Panchromatic black and white rolls of film exposed by Gerda Taro in La Granjuela (Córdoba province).

But the Jewel of the Crown of this The Mexican Suitcase exhibition in Córdoba have been the two huge mural enlargements — for the first time ever — of two contact sheets (one in approximately 3 x 2 meter size with 12 frames and another one with the same height and four frames made from the original negatives of Eastman Kodak II Nitrate Panchromatic b & w film of pictures made by Gerda Taro in La Granjuela (Córdoba province) throughout the last week of June 1937

with a 35 mm format Leica III (Model F) rangefinder camera coupled to a Leitz Summar 5 cm f/2.

Another diagonal sight of the stretch of Vimcorsa Exhibition Room where are visible the two amazing murals with massive size contact sheets including pictures made by Gerda Taro in La Granjuela.

A real treat for any lover of classic black and white photography, because the viewing of those mega contacts from a very near distance revealed plenty of visible grain inherent to the bulk loaded cinematographic black and white film Eastman Kodak II Panchromatic Nitrate featuring very low sensitivity and lavish quantity of silver, though the beholding from a suitable observation distance was a true relish for the tenths of thousands of visitors who could verify on the spot the stunning acutance of this 24 x 36 mm format chemical emulsion (also used by Capa and David Seymour " Chim " during the Spanish Civil War, along with the Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens to shoot that same year his documentary movie Spanish Earth and a year later The 400 Million in China — coinciding with Capa, who likewise made use of this b & w film with his mirrorless with rangefinder Contax II camera and Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 5 cm f/2 during his stay in the Asiatic country in 1938 — ) enhanced by the excellent development made in Paris by Csiki Weisz (Capa and Gerda Taro´s darkroom man) using Agfa Rodinal, which greatly fosters the visual feeling of sharpness and the quality of image 80 years after the pictures were made, with the very high doses of thrill it brings about.

Selective reframing of the photograph made by Guillermo Zúñiga to Gerda Taro throughout the first week of July 1937 in Valencia and in which she appears with a mirrorless with rangefinder chromed Leica III (Model F) camera with a non coated Leitz Summar 5 cm f/2 lens, roughly three weeks prior to her death on July 26, 1937.

It is the same camera and lens with which the German photojournalist from Jewish descent made one week before at La Granjuela (Córdoba) in late June 1937 the images shown in the gigantic contact sheets of The Mexican Suitcase that has been held in Córdoba within the XV International Biennal of Photography, between March 23 and May 21, 2017, thanks to the collaboration between the International Center of Photography of New York and the Córdoba City Council.

The king size enlargements of these contacts from original 24 x 36 mm negatives indicate that the delicate front element of the non coated 6 elements in 4 groups Leitz Summar 5 cm f/2 lens used by Gerda Taro had some cleaning marks  and scratches.

In spite of it, the ICP of New York has fulfilled a great work through the top-notch Picto Laboratory in Paris (France) making these 3 meters high x 2 meters wide contact sheets oozing beauty and a unique vintage image aesthetics springing from the original Eastman Kodak Panchromatic Nitrate 35 mm b & w negatives with a Weston 32 sensitivity (equivalent to ISO 40) which have enraptured the great quantity of visitors who have attended to this pivotal itinerant photographic exhibition having gone round the most important cities in the world.

These contact sheets of the reportage made by Gerda Taro in La Granjuela during the last week of 1937 had already been previously displayed in other venues of The Mexican Suitcase exhibition in Europe, United States and Mexico, but in s slightly bigger size than the original ones and never in so colossal dimensions.

Nine years and a half ago, after the arrival in New York on December 19, 2007 of the 126 rolls of 35 mm black and white film making up The Mexican Suitcase, with great professionality and humbleness the ICP New York left the difficult digitization of the original nitrate 35 mm films of The Mexican Suitcase in the hands of a team of experts of the Key Whitmore Conservation Center of the George Eastman Kodak Museum in Rochester, directed by Grant B. Romer (Director of the Advanced Residency Program in Photograph Conservation of the George Eastman House Museum of Rochester), Mirasol Estrada ( Andrew W. Mellon Fellow of the Advanced Residency Program in Photograph Conservation at George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film and brought up in the ECRO of Guadalajara, Jalisco), Inés Toharia Terán (a Specialist in the Preservation of Cinematographic Stuff) and Arnold VanDenburgh (Designer), who managed to create the Planar Film Duplicating Device (PFD2) made with glass, teflon and aluminum which carried out simultaneously a great quality of professional scanning with the maximum reduction of the risks inherent to unfold 35 mm nitrate film rolls which had been very wrapped around for approximately 68 years, because it is an ingenious contrivance holding photographic film and working as a copy stand with which each and every one of the original nitrate 35 mm film roll was photographed with a Canon ESO DS Mark III digital reflex camera, so avoiding any possible frictions of the emulsions exposed by Capa, Chim and Taro and developed by Chiki Weisz on any kind of physical support, greatly attaining the access to the images without unrolling or cutting the films and with the minimum feasible manipulation of them.

This has meant in practice a momentous feat, since they have been able to solve the conundrum which implied to flat the 35 mm nitrate roll films in such a way that there wasn´t any image distortion or harm to them, with the simultaneous need to avoid the built-in typical risks in this sort of highly inflammable emulsion.

And at the same time, thanks to the good preservation condition of them, they have managed to get excellent results, in my opinion comparable in terms of image quality to the ones which would have been achieved with a professional 35 mm Nikon Coolscan 5000 ED scanner reaching the 4,000 dpi of optical definition, with a 4.8 DMAX, though this kind of scanners were far from being the most appropriate to digitize the very warped 4,500 negatives of the 126 rolls of 35 mm film of The Mexican Suitcase and wouldn´t have enabled a safe handling and keeping up of the delicate nitrate 24 x 36 mm negatives, which was the most important side.

Neither was possible the use of the photographic domain state-of-the-art reference-class Hasselblad Imacon Flextight X1 and X5 scanners or the benchmark scanners of the cinematographic industry with 35 mm films like the ARRISCANS 3K and 6K searching for the concept of integral digital replica of the original 35 mm negative (with exceptional levels of sharpness and dynamic range), since a high percentage of the sprocket holes of the 35 mm film rolls of The Mexican Suitcase are broken.

Therefore, it was necessary to find the best feasible compromise solution enabling to attain a top-notch quality digitization, and the George Eastman House Museum team did it with high marks using the PFD2, because the 40 megabytes DNG archives obtained from the RAW of each one of the 4,500 negatives made with the Canon EOS 1DS Mark III at f/16 and 1/6 sec are more than enough to any desired application and size.

In a truly incredible way, the modern digital technology has been a key factor in this story for the definitive preservation of this historical and hugely important photographic heritage of images created almost three quarters of a year ago, with spectacular image quality and a total preservation of the special image aesthetics typical in the black and white chemical emulsions of the time which included high quantities of silver.

The visit of Gerda Taro and Robert Capa to La Granjuela had its origin in the assignment that Richard de Rochemond, Director of the European Section of Henry Luc´es newsreeel The March of Time made Capa during his stay in Paris in mid May 1937, asking him and Gerda Taro to photograph and film a reenactment ( that´s to say, as faithful recreation of the facts as possible) of the very harsh fight in La Granjuela between the Francoist troops and the combatants of the Chapaiev Battalion (belonging to the XIII International Brigade and integrated by 389 men from 21 different countries — above all Germans, Polish, Austrian, Swiss, Dutch, Hungarian, Czech, Swedes, Danes, Yugoeslavian, French, Italian, Luxembourg, Ukrainian, Belgian, Russian, Greek, Brasilian and Spaniards, though the main core was set up by 79 Germans, 67 Poles, 59 Spaniards and 41 Austrians) who had captured the village three months before, on April 5, 1937.

And this time it wasn´t Capa but Gera Taro who made the pictures, with a Leica III, joining the reduced group of photojournalist women (in a professional environment in which men were an overwhelming majority at the time) that used 35 mm rangefinder cameras like Jeanne Mandello (who made some reportages in Berlin in 1927 and 1928 with a Leica 1 Model A, being taught by Paul Wolff, and subsequently devoting herself to fashion photography in Paris between 1935 and 1938), Ilse Bing (who had been using a Leica 1 Model C Standard Mount since 1931), Gerti Deutsch (who had photographed Vienna in mid thirties with a Leica III and would get pictures of London from 1938 onwards) and Margaret Bourke-White (who had begun to use a Contax II since late 1936, in adition to her large format cameras she had as photographic tools since early thirties).

The image aesthetics of the cinematographic black and white 35 mm Eastman Kodak Nitrate Panchromatic is unique, since in spite of being a chemical emulsion generating pictures featuring abundant visible grain, it is greatly made up for by its outstanding acutance, its very special visual texture and its deep and rich black and grey tones, glorious traits linked to a comprehensive array of mythical movies which were shot during twenties, thirties, forties and early fifties with nitrate pnachromatic films, among which can be highlighted:

- King of Kings (Cecil B. Demille, 1927).

- Alexandr Nevsky (Sergei M. Eisenstein abd Dmitry Vsilev, URSS, 1938).

- The Man Who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hittchcock, 1934).

- Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940).

- Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942).

- Laura (Otto Preminger, 1944).

- Spellbound (Alfred Hitchcock, 1945).

- Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio de Sica, 1948).

- Bakûshu The Early Summer (Yasuhiro Ozu´ s  masterpiece, Japan, 1951).

And many others.

On the other hand, it shouldn´t be fotgotten that being able to savour these wonderful giant contacts of the images made by Gerda Taro inside La Granjuela (Córdoba) in 1937, as well as being a once in a lifetime visual experience, has been fruit of virtually irrepeteable circumstances, because nitrate films are unstable and degrade over time because of the deterioration of plastic film support and if storage conditions are not adequate.

That´s why the 1992 finding in Mexico D.F of the three chocolate boxes in red, green and beige colours with small cardboard compartments, in which Csiki Weisz (a man with great manual dexterity) had introduced in 1939, one by one, the 126 rolls of 35 mm film painstakingly classified and making up what is known as The Mexican Suitcase with the 4,500 negatives in perfect preservation condition after 53 years, was something amazing which has made possible to revel in these contacts enlarged to huge size which have catalyzed the enthralment of the abundant attending audience, with the exceedingly genuine features inherent to the old chemical cinematographic nitrate films (used often during thirties in 24 x 36 mm format cameras, particularly Leica and Contax rangefinders), above all the excellent range of clear details even in the areas of dark shadows and high keys and a reference-class depth of field (highly visible in the images of La Granjuela made by Gerda Taro and which enhance even more the shaprness zones attained by choosing f/8 and f/11 diaphragms, taking advantage of the powerful sunlight available in the village in late June 1937) providing these images a great and very pronounced dimensional effect fostering the sense of layered planes of space, with an intensity superior to the " safety film " chemical emulsions that replaced them in early fifties as a consequence of their very flammable nature.

Moreover, the 24 x 36 mm format Eastman Kodak Nitrate Panchromatic black and white film grants the observer an unutterable tactile feeling catalyzing his immersion in the pictures, the instants captured and the time, with a very beautiful and vivid image in which stand out its superb tonal gradation and edge definition yielding an almost 3-D depth.

Photographic alchemy in pure state which more than eighty years ago resulted in the nitrate cinematographic films becoming the benchmark thanks to their second to none luminosity, richness and depth of blacks, whites whiter than ever (mythical in movies like Vredens Dag by Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1943) and the utter synergy with the exceddingly high quality standard of the cinematographic industry laboratories of the period.

In this frame enlarged to a size of approximately 40 x 65 cm and visible inside the Vimcorsa Room of Córdoba (in the same way as all the ones making up the two mural size panels with two contact sheets and identical size of images made by Gerda Taro within La Granjuela in 1937) you can clearly observe the remarkable timing of the photojournalist on pressing the shutter release button of her Leica III camera, capturing the movement of her subjects, as happens in this picture, particularly on the two voluntary combatants of the Chapaiev Battalion most on the left, who had their left legs leaned on the ground, captured in full run.

It´s likewise visible the very eclectic nature of this unity as to the origin of its men (the one in the middle, slightly on the left, is wearing a French helmet on his head, while others have Polish and German caps) and the firearms they use (Mosin-Nagant M1891 7,62 x 54R caliber rifles and Mauser 7 x 57 mm Mauser rifles).

Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

La Granjuela en La Maleta Mexicana: Otro Memorable Aliciente de la XV Bienal Internacional de Fotografía de Córdoba


La exposición itinerante internacional La Maleta Mexicana, la más importante exhibición fotográfica del siglo XXI hasta la fecha, ha formado parte de la XV Bienal Internacional de Fotografía, seis años y medio después de su estreno en el ICP de Nueva York el 24 de septiembre de 2010, lo cual constituye un éxito sin precedentes, ya que la ciudad tiene hoy en día 325.000 habitantes, en comparación con otras grandes urbes europeas y norteamericanas de tamaño muchísimo mayor, millones de residentes e ingentes recursos a su disposición.

Una vez más, los numerosísimos asistentes han podido contemplar en directo una nutrida selección de las imágenes que constituyen este tesoro histórico de incalculable valor y que incluye 4500 negativos originales en soberbio estado de conservación de fotografías hechas durante la Guerra Civil Española por Robert Capa, Gerda Taro y David Seymour Chim (además de algunas hechas en París por Fred Stein) en Barcelona, Madrid, Córdoba, Bilbao, Valencia, Guadalajara, Asturias, Brunete, El Jarama, Río Segre, etc, con un amplio despliegue de hojas de contactos, ampliaciones enmarcadas de las fotografías más representativas, revistas originales de época, carnets de prensa originales, etc.

Interior de la Sala de Exposiciones Vimcorsa en la c/ Ángel de Saavedra, 9 de Córdoba. Vista diagonal del impresionante mural de 3 x 2 metros con una hoja de 12 contactos de gigantesco tamaño hechos a partir de la digitalización de los negativos originales de los rollos de película de blanco y negro de 35 mm Eastman Kodak II Nitrate Panchromatic expuestos por Gerda Taro en La Granjuela (Provincia de Córdoba) y ampliados ex profeso para esta histórica XV Bienal de Fotografía de Córdoba).

Pero la Joya de la Corona de esta exhibición La Maleta Mexicana en Córdoba han sido las dos enormes ampliaciones murales — por primera vez en la historia — de dos hojas de contactos (una en tamaño de aproximadamente 3 x 2 metros con 12 frames y otra con tres veces menos anchura pero idéntica altura y cuatro frames) realizadas a partir de los negativos originales de película de blanco y negro Eastman II Kodak Panchromatic Nitrate utilizados por Gerda Taro en La Granjuela (Provincia de Córdoba) durante la última semana de Junio de 1937

con una cámara telemétrica de 35 mm Leica III (Model F) y objetivo Leitz Summar 5 cm f/2.

Otra vista diagonal del tramo de la Sala de Exposiciones Vimcorsa donde aparecen visibles los dos espectaculares murales con hojas de contactos en extraordinario tamaño con fotografías hechas por Gerda Taro en La Granjuela.

Un auténtico lujo para cualquier amante de la fotografía clásica en blanco y negro, ya que la visualización de dichos mega contactos desde una distancia muy próxima revelaba el abundante grano visible inherente a la emulsión de blanco y negro cinematográfica cargada a granel Eastman Kodak II Panchromatic Nitrate de muy baja sensibilidad y abundante cantidad de plata, si bien la contemplación desde una distancia de observación adecuada constituyó un inefable deleite para los muchos miles de visitantes que pudieron constatar in situ la impresionante acutancia de esta película de 35 mm (utilizada también por Capa y David Seymour " Chim" durante la Guerra Civil Española, así como por el cineasta holandés Joris Ivens para filmar este mismo año su documental Spanish Earth y un año más tarde The 400 Million en China — coincidiendo con Capa, que usó también esta emulsión con su cámara mirrorless con telémetro Contax II y objetivo Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 5 cm f/2 durante su estancia en el país asiático en 1938 —) potenciada por el excelente revelado realizado en París por Csiki Weisz (laboratorista de Robert Capa y Gerda Taro) utilizando Agfa Rodinal, lo cual refuerza notablemente la sensación visual de nitidez y la calidad de imagen 80 años después de ser hechas las fotografías, con las elevadas dosis de emoción que ello genera.

Reencuadre selectivo de fotografía hecha por Guillermo Zúñiga a Gerda Taro durante la primera semana de julio de 1937 en Valencia y en la que aparece con una cámara mirrorless con telémetro Leica III (Model F) cromada acoplada a un objetivo Leitz Summar 5 cm f/2 no revestido, unas tres semanas antes de su muerte el 26 de julio de 1937.

Es la misma cámara y objetivo con los que la fotoperiodista alemana de origen judío hizo una semana antes en La Granjuela (Córdoba) a finales de junio de 1937 las imágenes mostradas en las hojas de contactos gigantes de la exposición La Maleta Mexicana que ha tenido lugar en la Sala Vimcorsa de Córdoba capital en el marco de la XV Bienal Internacional de Fotografía  Córdoba, entre el 23 de marzo y el 21 de mayo de 2017, gracias a la colaboración entre el International Center of Photography de Nueva York y el Ayuntamiento de Córdoba.

Las ampliaciones en gran tamaño de estos contactos de negativos formato 24 x 36 mm indican que el delicado elemento frontal del objetivo Leitz Summar 5 cm f/2 de 6 elementos en 4 grupos utilizado por Gerda Taro presentaba varias marcas de limpieza y arañazos.

Pese a ello, el ICP de Nueva York ha realizado un extraordinario trabajo elaborando estas hojas de contactos de aproximadamente 3 metros de altura y 2 de anchura de impresionante belleza y muy peculiar estética de imagen vintage dimanante de los negativos originales pancromáticos de nitrato Eastman Kodak de 35 mm y sensibilidad Weston 32 (equivalente a aproximadamente ISO 40) que han hecho las delicias de la gran cantidad de visitantes que han asistido a esta trascendental exhibición fotográfica itinerante que lleva ya varios años recorriendo las más importantes ciudades del mundo.

Estas hojas de contactos del reportaje hecho por Gerda Taro en La Granjuela durante la última semana de junio de 1937 ya habían sido expuestas con anterioridad en otras sedes de la exhibición La Maleta Mexicana en Europa, Estados Unidos y México, pero en un tamaño ligeramente más grande que los originales y nunca en tan gigantescas proporciones.

Hace nueve años y medio, tras la llegada a Nueva York el 19 de diciembre de 2007 de los 126 rollos de película de blanco y negro de 35 mm que constituyen La Maleta Mexicana,  con gran profesionalidad y humildad, el ICP de Nueva York dejó la difícil digitalización de los negativos originales de nitrato de La Maleta Mexicana en manos de un equipo de expertos del Key Whitmore Conservation Center del Museo George Eastman Kodak de Rochester, dirigido por Grant B. Romer (Director del Advanced Residency Program in Photograph Conservation del George Eastman House Museum de Rochester), Mirasol Estrada (Becaria de la Fundación Andrew Mellon, miembro del Programa de Residencia Avanzado en la Conservación de Fotografías y formada en la ECRO de Guadalajara, Jalisco), Inés Toharia Terán (Especialista en la Conservación de Material Cinematográfico) y Arnold VanDenburgh (Diseñador), que consiguieron crear el Planar Film Duplicating Device (PFD2) fabricado con vidrio, teflón y aluminio que simultaneaba una gran calidad de escaneado profesional con la reducción al máximo de los riesgos inherentes a extender películas de nitrato de 35 mm que llevaban muy enrolladas aproximadamente 68 años, ya que se trata de un ingenioso dispositivo sostenedor de película fotográfica que funciona como un copy stand con el que se fotografiaron todos y cada uno de los 4.500 negativos originales de nitrato con una cámara digital Canon EOS DS Mark III, evitando así posible roces de las emulsiones expuestas por Capa, Chim y Taro y reveladas por Csiki Weisz con soportes físicos de tipo alguno, consiguiendo en gran medida acceder a las imágenes sin desenrollar ni cortar las películas y con la menor manipulación posible de las mismas.

Ello ha supuesto en la práctica un memorable logro, ya que se ha resuelto el nudo gordiano del tema, que era el aplanamiento de los rollos de película de 35 mm de nitrato de modo que no hubiera distorsión de la imagen ni deterioro alguno de los mismos ni los riesgos típicos en este tipo de emulsión altamente inflamable.

Y a la vez, gracias al buen estado de conservación de los mismos, se han conseguido excelentes resultados, en mi opinión comparables en calidad de imagen a los que se habrían obtenido con un scanner profesional de 35 mm Nikon Coolscan 5000 ED que alcanza los 4.000 puntos por pulgada de definición óptica, con DMAX de 4.8, si bien los scanners de este tipo distaban de ser la mejor opción para digitalizar los 4.500 negativos de los 126 rollos de película de 35 mm muy alabeados de La Maleta Mexicana y no habrían permitido manejar con seguridad y preservar los muy delicados negativos de nitrato, que era el aspecto más importante de todos.

Tampoco era viable el uso de scanners de referencia del entorno fotográfico profesional como los Hasselblad Imacon Flextight X1 y X5 o de la industria cinematográfica con películas de 35 mm como los ARRISCANS 3K y 6K en pos del concepto de réplica digital integral del negativo original de 35 mm (con excepcionales niveles de definición y rango dinámico), ya que un elevado porcentaje de las perforaciones de arrastre de los rollos de 35 mm de La Maleta Mexicana están rotas.

Por tanto, había que buscar una solución de compromiso lo mejor posible y el equipo del George Eastman House Museum lo hizo de modo sobresaliente con el PFD2, ya que los archivos DNG de 40 megas obtenidos a partir de los RAW de cada uno de los 4.500 negativos realizados con la Canon EOS 1DS Mark III a f/16 y 1/6 seg son más que suficientes para prácticamente cualquier aplicación y tamaño deseable.

De modo verdaderamente increíble, la moderna tecnología digital ha sido clave en esta historia para la preservación de este histórico e importantísimo legado fotográfico de imágenes creadas hace ochenta años, con espectacular calidad de imagen e íntegro mantenimiento de la especial estética de imagen propia de las emulsiones químicas de blanco y negro de la época que incluían elevadas cantidades de plata.

La visita de Gerda Taro y Robert Capa a La Granjuela tuvo su origen en el encargo que Richard de Rochemond, Director de la sección europea del noticiario The March of Time de Henry Luce hizo a Capa durante su estancia en París a mediados de mayo de 1937, en el que le pidió que él y Gerda Taro fotografiaran y filmaran un reenactment (es decir, una recreación lo más fiel posible a los hechos) de la durísima lucha en La Granjuela entre las tropas franquistas y los combatientes voluntarios del Batallón Chapaiev (perteneciente a la XIII Brigada Internacional e integrado por 389 hombres de 21 países distintos — sobre todo alemanes, polacos, austríacos, suizos, holandeses, húngaros, checoeslovacos, suecos, daneses, yugoslavos, franceses, italianos, luxemburgueses, ucranianos, belgas, rusos, griegos, brasileños y españoles, si bien el núclao principal estaba formado por 79 alemanes, 67 polacos, 59 españoles y 41 austríacos) que habían capturado el pueblo tres meses antes, el 5 de abril de 1937.

Y esta vez no fue Capa, sino Gerda Taro quien hizo las fotografías con una Leica III, sumándose al reducido grupo de mujeres fotoperiodistas (en un entorno profesional en el que los hombres eran abrumadora mayoría en aquella época) que utilizaban cámaras telemétricas de 35 mm como Jeanne Mandello (que en 1927 y 1928 hizo algunos reportajes en Berlín con cámara Leica 1 Model A, asesorada por Paul Wolff, dedicándose posteriormente a la fotografía de moda en París entre 1935 y 1938), Ilse Bing (que desde 1931 usaba una Leica 1 Model C Standard Mount), Gerti Deutsch (que fotografiaría Viena a mediados de los años treinta con una Leica III y Londres desde 1938) y Margaret Bourke-White (que comenzó a usar una Contax II desde finales de 1936, además de sus cámaras de gran formato que utilizaba desde principios de los años treinta).

La estética de imagen de la película cinematográfica de blanco y negro Eastman II Kodak Nitrate Panchromatic es única, ya que pese a tratarse de una emulsión que genera imágenes con abundante grano visible, ello es compensado en gran medida por su notable acutancia, su textura visual muy especial y sus profundos y ricos tonos negros y grises, cualidades gloriosas vinculadas a un amplio elenco de míticos largometrajes que fueron rodados en los años veinte, treinta, cuarenta y principios de los cincuenta con películas de nitrato:

- Rey de Reyes (Cecil B. Demille, 1927).

- Alexandr Nevsky (Sergei M. Eisenstein y Dmitry Vsilev, URSS, 1938).

- El Hombre Que sabía Demasiado ( Alfred Hitchcock, 1934).

- Rebeca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940).

- Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942).

- Laura (Otto Preminger, 1944).

- Recuerda (Alfred Hitchcock, 1945).

- Ladrones de Bicicletas (Vittorio de Sica, Italia, 1948).

- Bakûshu El Comienzo del Verano (Yasuhiro Ozu, Japón, 1951).

Y muchas otras.

Por otra parte, no hay que olvidar que poder disfrutar de estos maravillosos contactos gigantes de las imágenes captadas por Gerda Taro dentro de La Granjuela (Córdoba) en 1937, además de una experiencia visual única, ha sido también fruto de unas circunstancias prácticamente irrepetibles, ya que lo normal es que las películas de nitrato, inestables por naturaleza, se deterioren notablemente con el paso del tiempo por degradación del soporte plástico de nitrocelulosa y si las condiciones de almacenamiento no son las adecuadas.

De ahí que el hallazgo en México D.F en 1992 de las tres cajas de bombones de color rojo, verde y beige con pequeños compartimentos de cartón, en los que Csiki Weisz (hombre de gran destreza manual) había introducido en 1939 uno por uno los 126 rollos de película cuidadosamente clasificados y que constituyen lo que se conoce como La Maleta Mexicana con los 4.500 negativos en perfecto estado de conservación después de 53 años, fue algo alucinante que ha hecho posible disfrutar de estos contactos ampliados a gran tamaño que han catalizado el deleite del numeroso público asistente con las características muy genuinas inherentes a las antiguas películas químicas cinematográficas de nitrato (utilizadas con frecuencia durante los años treinta en cámaras fotográficas formato 24 x 36 mm, especialmente Leica y Contax telemétricas), sobre todo la excelente gama de detalles claros incluso en las zonas de sombras oscuras y altas luces, y una referencial profundidad de campo (muy visible en las imágenes de La Granjuela hechas por Gerda Taro, y que potencian aún más las zonas de nitidez logradas mediante la elección de diafragmas f/8 y f/11 aprovechando la potente luz solar existente en el pueblo en Junio de 1937) que confiere a estas imágenes un gran efecto dimensional muy pronunciado que realza la sensación de planos espaciales en capas, con una intensidad superior a la de las emulsiones químicas " safety film" que las sustituyeron a partir de principios de los años cincuenta, como consecuencia de su carácter inflamable.

Además, la película cinematográfica de nitrato Eastman II Kodak formato 24 x 36 mm aporta al observador una inefable sensación táctil que cataliza su inmersión en la escena, el momento captado y la época, con un tipo de imagen muy bella y vívida, en la que destacan su soberbia gradación tonal y nitidez de bordes que obtienen con frecuencia una profundidad casi 3-D.

Alquimia fotoquímica en estado puro que tuvo como resultado hace más de ochenta años el que las películas cinematográficas de nitrato se convirtieran en el referente, con su impresionante luminosidad, riqueza y profundidad de negros, unos blancos más blancos que nunca (míticos en largometrajes como Vredens Dag de Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1943) y la plena sinergia con el muy alto nivel cualitativo de los laboratorios de la industria cinematográfica y fotográfica de la época.

En este fotograma ampliado aproximadamente a 40 x 65 cm y visible en el interior de la Sala Vimcorsa de Córdoba (al igual que el resto de los que constituían los dos paneles tamaño mural con sendas hojas de contactos a idéntico tamaño de imágenes hechas por Gerda Taro en el interior de La Granjuela en 1937) puede constatarse claramente la notable precisión en el timing de la fotoperiodista al apretar el botón liberador del obturador de su Leica III y captar el movimiento de los sujetos de sus imágenes, tal y como ocurre en esta fotografía, sobre todo en los dos combatientes voluntarios del Batallón Chapaiev más a la izquierda que tienen su pierna izquierda apoyada en el suelo, captados en plena carrera.

Es también visible el carácter muy heterogéneo de esta unidad en cuanto a la procedencia de sus hombres ( el del centro, ligeramente a la izquierda lleva casco francés sobre la cabeza, otros llevan gorros polacos y alemanes) y a las armas de fuego que utilizan (fusiles Mosin-Nagant M1891 Mexicansky calibre 7.62 x 54R y fusiles Mauser calibre 7 x 57 mm).

Texto y Fotos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza


During the tests at the Cheste MotoGP 2015 Grand Prix 2015, the Honda RC213V number 45 bike ridden by the British pilot Scott Redding got out of the track while cornering.

Instants of huge tension were lived, since for obvious reasons a MotoGP bike like the Honda RC213V with 1000 cc V4 engine and a weight of 162 kg losing control and getting out of the track at very high speed turns into an instantly lethal object if it touches any pilot or person it finds in its path. 

After falling on the ground, the motorcycle described a diagonal trajectory flying at great speed on the gravel adjacent to the circuit gravel, crashing against it a number of times until stopping.

Fortunately, Scott Redding (who was at the time a pilot of the Marc VDS Racing Team) managed to leave unharmed and could compete in the November 8, 2015 race in which Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha YZR-M1 Factory) became MotoGP World Champion for the third time.

The brave British pilot had also suffered a fall two months before, on September 13, 2015, during the first lap of San Marino MotoGP Gran Prix held at the Misano Adriático Circuit, though he was able to rally his strength and without changing bike at any moment kept on fighting till getting a highly commendable third position on the podium (only beaten by Marc Márquez and Bradley Smith), after sensationally overtaking Loriz Baz (Athinà Forward Racing, and a Yamaha YZR-M1 with both chassis and engine adapted to the Open limitations) at four laps to go and crossing the finish line doing half wheelie.

Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza


Durante los entrenamientos del Gran Premio de Cheste de MotoGP 2015, la moto Honda RC213V número 45 del piloto británico Scott Redding se salió de pista mientras tomaba una curva.

Se vivieron momentos de enorme tensión, ya que por motivos obvios una motocicleta de MotoGP como la Honda RC213V con motor V4 de 1000 c.c y 162 kg de peso que pierde el control y se sale de pista a muy alta velocidad se convierte en un objeto letal al instante si contacta con cualquier piloto o persona que se encuentre a su paso.

Tras caer Redding al suelo, la moto describió una trayectoria diagonal, dando varias vueltas de campana y volando a gran velocidad sobre la gravilla adyacente a pista, chocando varias veces contra ella hasta detenerse.

Afortunadamente, Scott Redding (por entonces piloto del equipo Marc VDS Racing Team) consiguió salir ileso y pudo disputar la carrera del Domingo 8 de Noviembre de 2015, en la que Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha YZR-M1 Factory) se proclamó Campeón del Mundo de Moto GP por tercera vez.

El bravo piloto británico también había sufrido una caída dos meses antes, el 13 de septiembre de 2015, durante la primera vuelta del Gran Premio de San Marino de MotoGP en el Circuito de Misano Adriático, pese a lo cual consiguió rehacerse y sin cambiar de moto en ningún momento continuó luchando hasta conseguir un muy meritorio tercer puesto en el podium (sólo superado por Marc Márquez y Bradley Smith), tras realizar un sensacional adelantamiento por la izquierda a Loris Baz (Athinà Forward Racing y Yamaha YZR-M1 con chasis y motor adaptado a las limitaciones Open) a cuatro vueltas para el final y cruzando meta con medio caballito.

Texto y Fotos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Ramón Alonso: A Living Legend of World Aerobatics

Text and Photos : José manuel Serrano Esparza 

World Champion of Aerobatics in Armilla, Granada (Spain) in 2007, European Champion of Individual Unlimited Aerobatics in Istra (Lithuania) in 2002, 20 times Spanish Aerobatics Absolute Champion between 1987 and 2001, Champion of the FAI AI-Ain International Aerobatic Competition in 2008 in United Arab Emirates (a competition reserved for the best eight pilots in the world), and Runner-Up (only behind France) in the Team World Championship held in Armilla, Granada (Spain) in 2007, the latter being a very important title, because it was fruit of the points attained by Ramón Alonso (1st), Cástor Fantoba (6th) and Juan Velarde (12th), managing to beat the until then unbeatable Russian Team (which was third).

This is the impressive background of Ramón Alonso, one of the best aerobatics pilots in the whole history of this sport.

Something exceedingly praiseworthy in this tremendously demanding competition, both physically and mentally (in which maximum feasible geometrical precision in every manoeuver and beauty are particularly valued), which was called by José Luis Aresti (inventor of the aerocryptographic code bearing his name and which was adopted by the FAI in 1961) art in pure state, and in which Spain has been a major world power with pilots like Ramón Alonso, the sadly demised Alex MacLean (one of the most brilliant aerobatics pilots in Europe, Diploma Paul Tissandier of FAI and within the cream of the crop of the Red Bull Air Race, equivalent to the Aerial Formula 1), Cástor Fantoba (European Champion in 2014 and six times Champion of Spain), Juan Velarde, Sergio Plà, Anselmo Gámez, Jorge Macías and others.

It all with far fewer available resources than other highly consolidated superpowers countries in the scope of aerobatics such as Russia, France and United States, though it shouldn´t be forgotten that Spain was one of the begetters of the aerobatic competition flight and the FAI Trophy bestowed to the Aerobatics World Champion bears the name José Luis Aresti.

Ramón Alonso with his Sukhoi Su-31 sponsored by Adventia, one of the most prestigious flying schools in the world (in which the laureated pilot was a pupil), located in the Aeronautic Campus of Matacán (Salamanca), which always trusted on Ramón Alonso´s exceptional gift for aerobatics and has been a key factor in the development of his professional career.

This formidable Russian single seater aircraft is built with carbon fiber, kevlar and titanium and was created by the Sukhoi Design Bureu in Moscow for the highest aerobatic competition, with a dry weight of 700 kg (maximum of 1050 kg in takeoff), fixed landing gear and an air-cooled 9 cylinder Vedeneyev M-14PF radial piston engine delivering 400 h.p enabling it to reach a top speed of 450 km/h and a climbing rate of 24 meters / sec, while its stall speed is 106 km/h.

It is the most agile and powerful aerobatic plane currently existing in the world, also standing out in its exceedingly sturdy structural integrity making possible for the pilots to repeatedly generate load factors between -10 g and + 12 g, the destructive load of the aircraft being 24g, while its roll rate is 401º / sec.

The stunning lift and manoeuver ability at low speed attained by Ramón Alonso´s Sukhoi Su-31 is conspicuous in this image in which the performance of the 400 CV Vedeneyev M-14PF engine proves to be sensational.

This fabulous powerplant introduced in 2002 is the diachronic world benchmark among the radial piston engines optimized for aerobatic aircraft and the technological apex of more than fifty years of evolution of 9 cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines started in 1951 with the 260 CV Ivchenko AI-14R, the Vedeneyev AI-14RF whose power output was increased by Ivan Vedeneyev up to 300 CV in 1959, the Vedeneyev M14-P series 1 whose production began in early seventies in the Voronezh Mechanical Factory, and the Vedeneyev M14-P series 2 likewise delivering 360 CV and whose manufacturing began in early eighties with significant improvements regarding its inner components, in addition to changes in the configuration of the cylinder heads.

This latter 360 CV engine boasts an excellent weight / power ratio, but the 400 CV Vedeneyev M-14PF engine featured by Ramón Alonso´s Sukhoi is an utterly mechanical wonder of aeronautical engineering whose performance is better and truly awesome.

The Sukhoi Su-31 great climbing rate of 26 meters / sec enables the pilot to gain height at a very fast pace, with the extraordinary reliability of the 400 h.p Vedeneyev M-14PF whose origin stemmed from a power output increase of 40 h.p in comparison to the series 2 360 h.p Vedeneyev M-14 P, modifying the supercharger gearbox in such a way that the turbocharger is turned at 10.5 times engine speed rather than 8.25, so though the same turbocharger compressor and other systems are used, the turning of the supercharger impeller is made at amazingly high 30,000 rpm to yield the highest levels of boost necessary to get the huge power it sports.

Inverted flight performed by Ramón Alonso. Aerobatics developed by the great Spanish pilot tickle the vary abundant audiences attending to see this real " artistic flight ".

The lightness of the Sukhoi Su-31 plane, currently the most advanced aerobatic aircraft in the world, in synergy with its Vedeneyev M14-PF powerplant make up a virtually unbeatable binomium,

enabling a very comprehensive array of manoeuvers with utter reliability and fast response of controls,

as befits an airplane built with the most advanced, sturdy and light available materials, boasting a state-of-the-art four stroke piston engine connected to a large propeller and able to reach the 3010 rpm/minute, as well as featuring an extraordinary thrust/weight ratio enabling it to fulfill some manoeuvers typical of helicopters at incredibly low speeds. 

Needless to say that its climbing rate is likewise awesome.

Ramón Alonso appears here in full vertical rising.

The hugely stout and reliable Vedeneyev M14-PF is entirely made at the Voronezh Mechanical Plant (Russia), one of the international yardsticks in metallurgical production, castings, highly accurate and greatly handcrafted broaching and grinding of metallic components with aerospace industry alloys, along with the manufacture of specific tools. 

Therefore, in practical terms, the Sukhoi Su-31 results in a perfect symbiosis between:

a) A breakthrough technology regarding the constructive quality and lightness of the materials and alloys used in its airframe, together with the very deep studies carried out by top-rate  Russian aeronautical engineers. whose labour throughout decades has hugely improved the prototype S42 Sukhoi-26 — with which was born the breed of Sukhoi aerobatic aircraft replacing the Yak-50, whose performance and security levels were far inferior — started in 1983 by the Sukhoi Design Bureau under the direction of V.P.Kodratyev and the aircraft designer M.P.Simonov, subsequently being enhanced from May 1984 by B.V.Rakitin.

b) A radial piston engine being the pinnacle in the whole history of aviation of this classic type of powerplants for propeller driven aircraft and which concerning the sphere of aerobatic flight provides the Sukhoi Su-31 the key qualities that made them well-known already during the golden age of aviation in thirties, forties and fifties: a formidable power / weight ratio, superb reliability, very easy functioning, simple maintenance, reference-class torque and a remarkable fuel efficiency.

And it must be added the major aspect of the Sukhoi Su-31 Vedeneyev M14-PF engine air cooling, unlike the liquid cooled piston engines (needing a higher weight, a much more complex construction with many more components and whose thrust / weight ratio is less favourable).

But the fact remains that radial piston engines need to have a very large front area to make the most of their cooling through impact air during flight, so the aerodynamic resistance of that forward zone is much bigger than in the liquid-cooled V or W piston engines, whose design makes possible smaller fron areas.

It gives a very clear picture of the tremendous power and reliability of the 400 CV Vedeneyev M14-PF engine, which outperforms the output of each of the two 325 hp Vedeneyev M-14C-26 engines of the Kamov Ka-26 light helicopter with coaxial rotors and the 320 CV Vedeneyev M-14C-26V engine of the Mi-34 light helicopter.

Without forgetting that unlike the turbo systems of the V or W engines only needing a conduct for the compressed air to reach the whole powerplant block after crossing the turbine, radial piston engines need specific conducts for each cylinder.

But all of it would be worthless without the most important factors to be a world champion of aerobatics like Ramón Alonso: the intensive training throughout many years, little by little, and an unswerving love for this sport, along with the huge experience acquired throughout decades and a thorough physical conditioning enabling to tackle aerobatic competitions successfully executing a comprehensive choice of higly complex manoeuvers, among them startings with descending snap rolls with rotation speeds of 570º / second. 

After becoming Aerobatics World Champion in Armilla, Granada (Spain) in 2007, Ramón Alonso decided to pull out of competition events in which he took part throught nothing less than 23 years, facing the best aerobatic pilots on earth (Mikhail Mamistov, Sergey Rakhmanin, Zach Heffley, Victor Chmal, Renaud Ecalle , Svetlana Kapanina, Oleg Schpoliansky, Jurgis Kairys, Klaus Schrodt, Xavier de Lapparent, Eric Vazeille and others), having focused since then on aerobatic exhibitions in which he goes beyond himself once and again enthralling the spectators as a golden brooch to an exceedingly brilliant professional trajectory in which he has amassed more than 3,000 flight hours as an aerobatic pilot and more than 19,000 as a commercial pilot of different aircraft.

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