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Photo by Robert Capa
Gerda Taro in 1936
Taro is photographed with a soldier at the front in Cordoba
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Boy soldierA young soldier in Hankou, China at the end of March 1938
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Two soldiers carry another one on a stretcherAn injured soldier is carried on a stretcher at the port de Navacerrada on the Segovian front in 1937
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Sailors playing their instruments on board battleship Jaume IFrom Almeria in February 1937, this shot shows a group of sailors during a break from fighting
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US soldiers landing on Omaha beach on D-dayCapa got right in amongst the terrible but decisive action as Allied troops landed at Normandy beaches in the north of France on June 6th 1944
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Gerda TaroThe photographer as subject—Gerda Taro is snapped at the Guadalajara front in July 1937
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Boy wearing hat of the FAITaken near the start of the Spanish Civil War, August 1936, in Barcelona, this image shows a boy proudly wearing the hat of the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI)
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Gerda Taro and Robert CapaThe two photographers together in Paris in 1935
Two separate but intertwined exhibitions showcasing the photojournalism of Gerda Taro and Robert Capa open this week at MNAC. 'Això és Guerra! Robert Capa en Acció' delves into the iconic work of the legendary photojournalist. Meanwhile 'Gerda Taro' is the first retrospective of a photographer who had only recently come into her own as a professional when, in 1937, in the words of curator Kristen Lubben, “she was unfortunately crushed by a tank and killed”.
Gerda Taro was born Gerta Pohorylle in Stuttgart, Germany in 1910. In 1933, after running into trouble for anti-Nazi activities, she moved to Paris where she met Hungarian exile 'André' Ernö Friedmann, who would later become Robert Capa.
Both photographers came up, professionally speaking, in the Thirties, taking advantage of advances in technology (smaller cameras, faster films) and the rising popularity of image-centric publications like the New York-based Life magazine and French publications Vu and Match, among others. And, of course, it helped that there was no shortage of wars to cover.
Within three years, the two were publishing their photos under the common by-line 'Robert Capa'. This would undoubtedly contribute to Taro’s enduring dilemma of being over-linked with her partner and, in the words of Lubben, too well situated in “myth and legend” and perhaps not well enough ensconced in the realm of photography.
Taro’s photos of Barcelona in August 1936 are beautifully optimistic. The high contrast images are formally composed with razor sharp diagonal lines and an almost architectural appearance. Filtered through her (clunky) Rollei camera, young militia women are transformed into joyous, Bauhaus demi-goddesses. But Taro had more than propaganda poster innocence up her sleeve.
As Europe’s bloody conflicts progressed, so did the variety of Taro’s style. By the end of her short professional career, she also had created peaceful yet creepy images of cadavers on marble slabs. This straightforward account of just what a bombing can do provides a striking contrast to the action filled shots of Capa who, despite witnessing carnage from the beaches of Normandy to the Japanese invasion of China, managed to take surprisingly few pictures of dead bodies. The advantage of the two exhibitions running side-by-side is that one can see both photographers’ take on the same subjects.
As for Capa, iconic images many of us have already seen such as the 'death of the militiaman' and the D-day series are contextualised with photographs taken just before and after, many of which have never been seen by the public.
In short, great photographs shedding light on horrible times.
Gabe gave this show five stars out of five
To see some of the images from the show, click on the slideshow
Gerda Taro and Això és Guerra: Robert Capa en Acció
Both shows are at MNAC until September 27th 2009