Gerda Taro (real name Gerta Pohorylle; 1 August 1910, Stuttgart, Germany - 26 July 1937, near Brunete, Spain) was born into a Polish-Jewish family that migrated from Galicia to Germany. She became a war photographer, and the companion and professional partner of photographer Robert Capa. Taro is regarded as the first female photojournalist to cover the front lines of a war and to die while doing so.
In 1929, the family moved to Leipzig, just prior to the beginning of Nazi Germany. Taro opposed the Nazi Party, joining leftist groups. In 1933, she was arrested and detained for distributing anti-Nazi propaganda. Eventually, the entire Pohorylle household was forced to leave Nazi Germany toward different destinations. Taro would not see her family again.
Escaping the anti-Semitism of Hitler's Germany, Pohorylle moved to Paris in 1934. In 1935, she met the photojournalist Endre Friedmann, a Hungarian Jew, becoming his personal assistant and learning photography. They fell in love. Pohorylle began to work for Alliance Photo as a picture editor.
In 1936, Pohorylle received her first photojournalist credential. Then, she and Friedmann devised a plan. Both took news photographs, but these were sold as the work of the non-existent American photographer Robert Capa, which was a convenient name overcoming the increasing political intolerance prevailing in Europe and belonging in the lucrative American market. Capa was derived from Friedmann's Budapest street nickname "Cápa" which means "Shark" in Hungarian. The secret did not last long, but Friedman kept the more commercial name "Capa" for his own name, while Pohorylle adopted the professional name of "Gerda Taro" after the Japanese artist Tarō Okamoto and Swedish actress Greta Garbo. The two worked together to cover the events surrounding the coming to power of the Popular Front in 1930s France.
Spanish Civil War
When the Spanish Civil War broke out (1936), Gerda Taro travelled to Barcelona, Spain, to cover the events with Capa and David "Chim" Seymour. Taro acquired the nickname of La pequeña rubia ("The little blonde"). They covered the war together at northeastern Aragon and at the southern Córdoba. Always together under the common, bogus signature of Robert Capa, they were successful through many important publications (the Swiss Züricher Illustrierte, the French Vu). Their early war photos are distinguishable since Taro used a Rollei camera which rendered squared photographs while Capa produced rectangular Leica pictures. However, for some time in 1937 they produced similar 135 film pictures together under the label of Capa&Taro.
Subsequently, Taro attained some independence. She refused Capa's marriage proposal. Also, she became publicly related to the circle of anti fascist European intellectuals (Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell) who crusaded particularly for the Spanish Republic. The Ce Soir, a leftist newspaper of France, signed her for publishing Taro's works only. Then, she began to commercialize her production under the Photo Taro label. Regards, Life, Illustrated London News and Volks-Illustrierte were amongst those publications.
Reporting the Valencia bombing alone, Gerda Taro attained the photographs which are her most celebrated. Also, in July 1937, Taro's photographs were in demand by the international press when, alone, she was covering the Brunete region near Madrid for Ce Soir. Although the Nationalist propaganda claimed that the region was under its control, the Republican forces had in fact forced that faction out. Taro's camera was the only testimony of the actual situation.
During her coverage of the Republican army retreat at the Battle of Brunete, Taro hopped onto the footboard of a car that was carrying wounded soldiers when a Republican tank crashed into its side. Taro suffered critical wounds and died the next day, July 26, 1937.
The circumstances of Taro's death have been questioned by British journalist Robin Stummer, writing in the New Statesman magazine. Stummer cited Willy Brandt, later Chancellor of West Germany, and a friend of Taro's during the Spanish Civil War, that she had been the victim of the Stalinist purge of Communists and Socialists in Spain not aligned to Moscow. However, Stummer provided no other evidence for this claim.
In an interview with the Spanish daily El País, a nephew of a Republican soldier at the Battle of Brunete explained that she had died in an accident. According to the eye-witness account, she had been run over by a reversing tank and she died from her wounds in El Goloso English hospital a few hours later.
Due to her political commitment, Taro had become an anti-fascist figure. On August 1, on what would have been her 27th birthday, the French Communist Party gave her a grand funeral in Paris, buried her at Père Lachaise Cemetery, and commissioned Alberto Giacometti to create a monument for her grave.
Publications with others
- Death in the Making. New York: Covici Friede, 1938. Photographs by Taro and Capa.
Publications about Taro
- Irme Schaber, "Gerda Taro: una fotografa rivoluzionaria nella guerra civile spagnola" (Roma: DeriveApprodi, 2007), with a preface by Elisabetta Bini.
- Maspero, François. L'ombre d'une photographe, Gerda Taro. Paris: Le Seuil, 2006. ISBN 2-02-085817-7
- Olmeda, Fernando: Gerda Taro, fotógrafa de guerra: el periodismo como testigo de la historia. Barcelona 2007. Editorial Debate. ISBN 978-84-8306-702-4.
- Schaber, Irme. Gerta Taro: Fotoreporterin im spanischen Bürgerkrieg. Marburg: Jonas, 1994. ISBN 3-89445-175-0
- Arroyo, Lorna. Documentalismo técnico en la Guerra Civil española. Inicios del fotoperiodismo moderno en relación a la obra de Gerda Taro.Castellón: Universidad Jaime I, 2011. ISBN 978-84-694-9871-2
- Rogoyska, Jane. Gerda Taro - Inventing Robert Capa. London: Jonathan Cape, 2013. ISBN 978-0224097130
On 26 September 2007, the International Center of Photography opened the first major U.S. exhibition of Taro's photographs.
In the summer of 2016 an open-air display of Taro's Spanish Civil War photographs was part of the f/stop photography festival in Leipzig. When the festival ended, it was decided the display, partly paid for by crowdfunding, would become permanent. Shortly after, on August 4, the display of Taro's work was destroyed by smearing it with black paint. With a crowdfunding project to restore the work ongoing, the destroyed work remains in place. It is suspected the destruction is motivated by anti-refugee or anti-semitic sentiments.
The documentary film, The Mexican Suitcase (2011), tells the story of a suitcase of 4,500 lost negatives taken by Taro, Capa, and David Seymour during the Spanish Civil War. The suitcase, and the negatives, are currently housed at the International Center of Photography in New York. The stage play Shooting With Light, produced by theater company Idle Motion, is based on this film.
- Steinman, Ron (October 2007). "Capa and Taro: Together at Last". The Digital Journalist.
- Source: Telegraph.co.uk [dead link]
- Source: International Center of Photography [dead link]
- Schaber, Irme; Lewandowski, Philippe (3 December 2007). "Gerda Taro – A revolutionary photographer in the Spain's war". Egodesign.
- The Association of International Photography Art Dealers[dead link]
- "Robert Capa’s lost negatives make a dramatic reappearance", New York Times
- Stummer, Robin (9 October 2008). "Accidental heroine". New Statesman.
- Antón, Jacinto (12 July 2009). "¡Te has cargado a la francesa!". El País (in Spanish).
- Robert Whelan, Robert Capa, the definitive collection (Phaidon Press, 2001; ISBN 978-0-7148-4449-7), p.8.
- Russezki, Jan (19 August 2016). "Aufstand gegen die Schwarzmaler". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German).
- "The Mexican Suitcase: Rediscovered Spanish Civil War Negatives by Capa, Chim, and Taro". International Center of Photography. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
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- "International Center of Photography Holds First Major Exhibition of Taro's Work", New York Times, 22 September 2007.