The Mexican Suitcase

February 7, 2016 § 1 Comment

The Mexican Suitcase refers to a collection of negatives of the Spanish Civil War by Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and Chim. The negatives were smuggled out of Paris in 1940 and made their way to Mexico City. The negatives were assumed to have been lost until they resurfaced in the 1990’s.

Whether you’re a history buff intrigued by the civil war like me or have a keen interest in photography, The Mexican Suitcase is a must see. From the fighting on the front lines to the lives of civilians under aerial bombardment, the photographs provide vivid insight into a conflict that tore apart a nation. The layout of the exhibition is neat and simple with succinct explanations of the rolls and their place in the conflict.

Capa, Taro, and Chim redefined what we call war photography. Capa, born Endre Friedmann in Budapest, covered the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II, and the First Indochina War. “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” was a maxim that he lived by. He threw himself into the action to cover the events: on the front lines in Spain, on Omaha beach on D-Day, amongst the ruins of Stalingrad with John Steinbeck.

Gerda Taro, born in Stuttgart to a Jewish family, moved to Paris in 1934 to escape the rising anti-Semitism. Taro earned the distinction of the first female photojournalist, covering the fighting in Barcelona, Aragon, and Cordoba along with her partner Robert Capa. Her most accomplished photographs are those of the fighting in Valencia and Brunete, where she sadly met her end.*

Chim (David Seymour) was a Polish photojournalist who was commissioned by Regards (a magazine), to report on the civil war.**

The Spanish Civil War occupies an integral part in 20th century European history. Seen by many historians as the opening round of the Second World War, it was a war fought by proxy by Europe’s totalitarian powers. The war stirred the emotions of Spaniards and foreigners alike and it wasn’t long before volunteers from all across the globe were enlisting to fight for the Republic. Orwell, Hemingway, Dos Passos, and Koestler descended upon Spain to cover and indeed take part in the fighting. (See Orwell’s brilliant account: Homage to Catalonia).

Robert Capa’s name was not one that I was unfamiliar with; I had been aware of his reputation as a photographer and so leapt at the chance to see his work when news of the exhibition reached me.

My favourite photo of the lot? The photo of Taro sleeping in her pyjamas. The value it must have held for Capa and how devastated he was upon her death imbues the frame with a strong sense of pathos.

The exhibition is on view until 21 February, from Tuesday to Sunday, between 10 am and 6 pm at Galeria Centralis, Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives
1051 Budapest, Arany János utca 32.

This marks my first post in the Travel series.


Sources:

“The Mexican Suitcase.” The Mexican Suitcase. Web. 06 Feb. 2016. <http://www.osaarchivum.org/hu/events/Mexican-Suitcase&gt;.
*Wikipedia contributors. “Gerda Taro.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 16 Jan. 2016. Web. 06 Feb. 2016.
**Wikipedia contributors. “David Seymour (photographer).” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 5 Feb. 2016. Web. 06 Feb. 2016.

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