lunes, 25 de enero de 2021


By José Manuel Serrano Esparza 


                                                                                                       Photo : Robert Capa / ©  ICP New York has been able to discover Gerda Taro´s left hand in a picture made by Robert Capa on September 5, 1936 of three refugees from Cerro Muriano (an old woman wearing an apron and black coif covering her head, a roughly sixteen years old boy clad in dark trousers, white shirt, clear jacket and typical Andalusian straw hat and his sister, an approximately four years old little girl, who is being grabbed by him with his right hand) fleeing walking from Cerro Muriano village and are in the area between Los Llanos del Conde and El Ronquillo Bajo, advancing beside the Córdoba-Almorchón railway (out of image, around five meters behind the photographer) across the old way to the Obejo Train Station and El Vacar, places where they are marching to. 

Map including the area between Los Llanos del Conde and El Ronquillo Bajo (both of them belonging to the municipal district of Obejo) in which Robert Capa made on September 5, 1936 this photograph in which appears Gerda Taro´s left hand resting on a holm oak, while three refugees from Cerro Muriano walk at very few meters from the tracks of the Córdoba-Almorchón railway, bounded for the Old Obejo Train Station and El Vacar.


The hand visible on far left of the image is a delicate hand featuring long and thin fingers and corresponds to a 26 years old woman : Gerda Taro, who is standing, staring at Capa and seeing how the Hungarian photojournalist from Jewish descend is getting the picture, while the old woman and the approximately sixteen years old boy keep on their march looking forward, focused on saving themselves as soon as possible because they have had to quickly escape from Cerro Muriano because of the bombing of the village by the Francoist aviation, are afraid of being reached by the Moroccan troops and their priority is to arrive as fast as feasible at the Old Obejo Train Station and El Vacar.

Obviously, the presence of Gerda Taro´s left hand on far left of the image is something happening by chance and not intentional by Capa at the moment in which he makes the photograph.

And it stems from some simultaneously converging key factors : 

A) Gerda Taro has steadily been next to Capa when he gets pictures since August 1936, when both of them arrived in Spain, because the German photojournalist from Jewish descend is beginning her photographic career and Capa has already worked as a professional photographer for four years, since he made the reportage of Leon Trotsky´s Speech at the Sports Palace of Copenhaguen (Denmark) on November 27, 1932.

A very intelligent and intuitive woman, in addition to being Capa´s girlfriend at the moment, Gerda Taro is utterly aware of his huge flair as a photographer, so Capa makes most of the pictures during 1936 (she will become an independent photographer in 1937, significantly increasing her production), while she, as well as making photographs, accompanies him working as a commercial agent and representative of the images created by Capa, a highly enhanced scope thanks to her great friendship with Maria Eisner (director of Alliance Photo Agency in Paris, the most important one in Europe at the time along with Dephot Berlin, was director was Simon Guttmann), of whom she had been assistant since October 1935, with a monthly salary of 1,200 francs.

Gerda Taro has been getting pictures in Spain since mid August 1936 with a 6 x 6 cm medium format Reflex Korelle camera (discovery made by Irme Schaber and verified by until a few days bafore September 5, 1936, but evidence clearly suggest that either she ran out of 120 film rolls or the very thin and fragile metallic cable  located under the top panel of the camera, and on which depended both the shutter cocking and the film advance, broke (something often happening), so she didn´t make any pictures in th area of Cerro Muriano and between Cerro Muriano, the Old Obejo Train Station and El Vacar.

Therefore, that September 5, 1936, Gerda Taro was with Capa at every moment, watching from a very short distance how he made the photographs, because on boasting much more experienced than her, it was apparent that she he could learn very much from him.

Even five months later, in February 1937, when the German photojournalist had started to simultaneously use a 6 x 6 cm format Reflex Korelle camera (whose 120 film rolls made possible to get 12 shots and with which she got pictures in Almería of refugees coming from Málaga, sailors on board of the Jaime I battleship and Republican soldiers) with a Leica II Model D turned into a Leica III (able to get 36 frames) with which she got a lot of pictures in the Ciudad Universitaria and Parque del Oeste zones in Madrid, 

                                                                                                      Photo : Robert Capa / © ICP New York 

Gerda Taro accidentally appears on the right of an image in which Capa photographs a non-comissioned officer of the International Brigades with a rifle, military cap and campaign boots, walking down a stairs in the Ciudad Universitaria area of Madrid, pretending to be absent-minded, but really paying attention to the way in which Capa gets the picture.

And something similar took place on September 5, 1936 in this photograph made by Capa between Los Llanos del Conde and El Ronquillo Bajo, roughly 2 km in the northeast from Cerro Muriano.

Gerda Taro has been standing for some seconds before Capa gets the picture, with her left hand leaned on the holm oak and waiting for the arrival of the three refugees walking towards both of them.

In spite of the stifling heat (with a temperature of 40º C), Taro is wearing a long-sleeved black jacket, striving upon going as much unnoticed as possible but looking at Capa at the same time to see how he gets te picture including the old woman, the around sixteen years old boy and the approximately 4 years old little girl who are about to reach the proximity of the point where Capa is standing with his camera.

B) Gerda Taro has done her best not to appear in the photograph, above all trying to avoid deviating the attention of the three refugees, being standing, still, with her left hand on the holm oak and very near the spot through which the three people are advancing towards them, struggling to attain that if she is seen by the three refugees, the deviation degree of their looks be the minimum feasible, knowing that Capa always has a go at surprising the human beings he photographs. 

Capa is standing, at a distance of approximately 6 meters, perpendicularly with respect to the spot through which the three refugees from Cerro Muriano are going to pass.

He can´t approach as much as true to form he would like, since composively and at great speed, he decides to get inside the frame the high telegraph pole (including its higher area and the wires) for it to dominate the middle area of the image and separate the old woman from the young boy with his little sister trudging behind her.

Capa has got all five senses on getting a dynamic picture conveying a sense of movement, so he presses the shutter release button of his Leica II (Model D) rangefinder camera coupled to a Leitz Elmar 50 mm f/3.5 lens with his impressive timing accuracy, capturing the old woman´s left foot and the boy´s left leg and foot in full motion, providing the image with a remarkable feeling of mobility.

Moreover, Capa, always paying heed to even the smallest details making a difference, realizes that the old woman is walking faster and more powerfully than the young boy and his very little sister advancing behind her, because the roughly sixteen years old boy has to plod matching his walking with his sister´s one, so the image features a much more restless context than could seem at first blush, since the boy is constantly going ahead suffering the stress of having to be able to follow the steps of the old woman leading the group (probably his grandmother) and at the same time not to force the march of his very little sister to avoid her physical exhaustion, because they must cover 10,5 km more of very hard trek under a scorching sun until arriving at El Vacar.

C) It´s a highly instinctive and fast shot, made with the camera probably set at f/11 (hence the great depth of field in the image) and a relatively slow shutter speed (Capa used Eastman Kodak Nitrate Panchromatic black and white film featuring a sensitivity of Weston 32, equivalent to ISO 40) making that the left hand of the old woman (walking at a higher speed than the boy and his very small sister) appears blurry and oozing motion feeling.

Therefore, Capa´s great concentration on the three refugees from Cerro Muriano walking towards the left of the image and the quickness with which he shoots his camera, result in his unawereness about the presence of Gerda Taro´s hand on far left of the frame.

On the other hand,

the selective reframing of the image right area including the approximately sixteen years old boy and his roughly four years old little sister, makes possible to bear out the amazing timing precision and ability to perceive even the most minute details displayed by Capa, who has managed to capture the boy´s left foot in motion and with its heel on the ground, in stark contrast to the little girl´s left foot, also moving and whose forward area is the one touching the ground.

And an even larger selective reframing enables to verify something already visible in the complete image : unlike the old woman and the boy (who have been captured unaware of the photographer´s presence), the little girl has turned her face and is looking at Capa. 


After the foundation of the International Center of Photography in New York in 1974 by Cornell Capa (Robert Capa´s brother),

                                                                              Cornell Capa inside the ICP of New York in 1990. © Claire Yaffa

both he 

Cornell Capa and his wife Edith Schwartz in 2001, a few months before the demise of the latter on November 23, 2001. The picture was made by Capa on September 5, 1936 and shown in this article was a 18 x 24 cm copy on photographic paper donated by both of them to the ICP of New York in 1992. © Claire Yaffa

and his wife Edith Schwartz devoted their lives to the safeguarding of the photographic trove of images made by Robert Capa, who had died in Thai Binh (Vietnam) twenty years before, on May 25, 1954, when stepping on a mine, and also to the enhancing of photography, both in its photojournalist and artistic sphere, as well as passionately promoting the birth of a comprehensive range of photographic courses and lectures that turned the ICP in the reference-class benchmark in its field, something that has continued hitherto. 

And among the myriad of photographs related to Robert Capa and kept by the ICP of New York there were two prints that were always given great significance by Cornell Capa until his death on May 23, 2008 : two images created by Fred Stein (a top-notch German photographer, great friend of Capa, Chim, Gerda Taro and Csiki Weisz), who captured Gerda Taro with a typewriter in Paris in early 1936.

In the same way as happened in August of 2010 when could discover both Gerda Taro´s head on far left of a picture made by Capa during the Harangue in the Finca of Villa Alicia and the location in it, those two photographs have also been very important now to do a comparative analysis of the images and be able to discern that the hand appearing on far left of the picture made by Capa on September 5, 1936 between Los Llanos del Conde and El Ronquillo Bajo, approximately 2 km in the northeast from Cerro Muriano and shown in this humble article, is Gerda Taro´s one. 

                                                                                                                                    © Fred Stein

                                 Selective framing in which can be seen Gerda Taro´s delicate hands with long and thin fingers.

                                                                                                                                         © Fred Stein

Selective reframing of the second picture made by Fred Stein to Gerda Taro with her typewriter in Paris in early 1936, in which in spite of being slightly out of focus, it can be also appreciated Gerda Taro´s delicate left hand featuring long and thin fingers. 

And the comparison of 

the selective reframing of the picture made by Capa on September 5, 1936 between Los Llanos del Conde and El Ronquillo Bajo 

with the enlargement of a specific area of a photograph made by Walter Reuter in Valencia on July 4, 1937 to Gerda Taro holding a Leica III with Leitz Summar 5 cm f/2 lens, verifies even more that the hand appearing on far left of the aforementioned picture made by Capa on September 5, 1936 is Gerda Taro´s one.