Female Fotographer Fridays: Gerda Taro – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

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Unidentified Photographer, Gerda Taro, Guadalajara Front, July 1937

Gerta Pohorylle, aka Gerda Taro, was born in Stuttgart, Germany, on August 1, 1910. After attending the Königin-Charlotte Realschule in Stuttgart, the Internat Villa Florissant in Lausanne, Switzerland, the Höhere Handelsschule (Business College) in Stuttgart, and the Gaudig Schul in Leipzig, she had to flee to Paris in 1933, where she was first employed as a secretary to the psychoanalyst René Spitz. She soon met André Friedmann and started photographing; in the spring of 1936, they reinvented themselves as Robert Capa and Gerda Taro. From August 1936 on, Taro became a pioneering photojournalist whose brief career consisted almost exclusively of dramatic photographs from the front lines of the Spanish Civil War. Her photographs were widely reproduced in the French and international press. Taro worked alongside Capa, and the two collaborated closely. While covering the crucial Battle of Brunete on July 25, 1937, Taro was struck by a tank and died the next day. She was the first female photographer to be killed while reporting on war.

The Mexican Suitcase, New York: ICP, p. 426

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Fred Stein, [Gerda Taro, Paris], 1935, © Estate of Fred Stein

A Gerda Taro Chronology:

August 1, 1910 [105 years ago tomorrow]
Born Gerta Pohorylle in Stuttgart, Germany.

1917-29
Attends the Königin-Charlotte Realschule in Stuttgart; Internat Villa Florissant in Lausanne, Switzerland; and the Höhere Handelsschule (Business College) in Stuttgart.

1929
Moves to Leipzig and attends the Gaudig Schule.

1933
Placed in “protective” custody by the Nazi government for association with anti-Nazi political activists. In September/ October, she emigrates to Paris, where she lives near the Square de Port-Royal and is employed as a secretary to the psychoanalyst René Spitz.

September 1934

Meets Hungarian-born Endre Ernö Friedmann, who calls himself André in Paris and later becomes Robert Capa.

January 1935
Moves to Rue Peclet.

April 1935
Probably attends a clandestine meeting with the musician and educator Alfred Schmidt-Sas, with whom she was involved in political resistance activities in 1933 (he is murdered by the Nazis in 1943). Moves to the home of Fred and Lilo Stein, Rue Caulaincourt, and does some darkroom work with Fred Stein.

Summer 1935
During a camping trip to the French island of Sainte-Marguerite, André and Gerta fall in love. He begins instructing her in photography. Shortly after, she becomes a sort of business manager for André’s career as a photojournalist.

September 1935
André and Gerta live and work together in Paris in a small apartment near the Eiffel Tower.

October 1935
André’s friend Maria Eisner, founder Of Alliance Photo hires Gerta as an assistant.

February 1936
Gerta receives her first press card, from the Amsterdam-based photographic agency A.B.C Press-Service.

Spring 1936
André and Gerta move to the Hôtel de Blois at Rue Vavin and invent the persona of Robert Capa, a famous and successful American photographer. Thereafter, Gerta presents André’s work under the pseudonym Robert Capa and she adopts the name Gerda Taro.

July 17, 1936
The Spanish Civil War begins.

August 1936
Capa and Taro cover the war in Spain for Vu, arriving in Barcelona on August 5. There Taro photographs the people preparing to defend their city, including a series of images of militiawomen training on the beach outside Barcelona. Mid-month the couple head for the Aragón front, where they stay for a week, then travel on to Madrid. A few days later, they continue south to the Córdoba front, stopping at Toledo and Alcázar.

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Gerda Taro, [Republic militiawomen training on the beach, outside Barcelona], August 1936, (368.2002)

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Gerda Taro, [Republican militiawoman training on the beach, outside Barcelona], August 1936 (452.1986)

September 1936
On the Cordoba front, while Taro and Capa photograph a group of Republican militiamen at Cerro Muriano, Capa snaps his most famous image, The Falling Soldier (September 5). During the last week of September, the pair return to Paris via Alcázar and Barcelona.

October 1936

Taro and Capa photograph a massive civil-defense drill in Paris.

November-December 1936
Taro travels to Naples to visit fellow Leipziger Georg Kuritzkes, whom she inspires to join the newly formed International Brigades.

February 1937
Mid-month, Capa and Taro return to Spain and photograph in the coastal town of Almería, where the streets are crowded with refugees from Málaga. In Almería, they make their series of photographs of the battleship Jaimie I and then trek along the southern front at Motril and Calahonda. Around this time, they produce an extensive photo-story on the ancient mercury mines of Almadén. They return to Madrid, where they photograph Loyalist trenches in University City. In late February, the pair begin to publish as REPORTAGE CAPA & TARO; the first major photo-story under this by-line appears in Regards, March 18, 1937. Capa returns to Paris and Taro remains in Spain; she is now under contract to the daily French newspaper Ce Soir. The couple’s romance loses momentum. Taro stays at the Casa de Alianza, an expropriated villa in Madrid used by the Alianza de Inteletuales Antifascistas.

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Gerda Taro, [Marines playing musical instruments on board the Battleship Jaime I, Ameria, Spain], February 1937 (2002.1.10)


March 1937

Taro begins to stamp works produced outside of her collaboration with Capa as PHOTO TARO. The change marks her growing independence from him. Taro’s work is published regularly in Regards, Ce Soir and Volks-Illustrierte. She covers the Battle of Guadalajara (March 8-23), witnessing the Loyalist victory over Mussolini’s troops and producing the first major reportage to be published as PHOTO TARO (Regards, April 8, 1937). She also photographs on the Jarama front, then travels to Valencia to cover the new People’s Army. She returns to Paris and photographs the huge funeral of the victims of a police raid at Clichy.

April 1937
Taro and Capa wait in Paris for authorization papers for an assignment in Bilbao. By mid-month, they are back in Madrid, Taro travels to the Jarama front and visits the crew of The Spanish Earth, a documentary film by Joris lvens. The couple stay at the Hotel Florida in Madrid, where they keep company with Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, and Herbert Matthews from the New York Times. By April 22 or 23, Taro and Capa are back in Paris.

May 1937
During the May Day demonstration in Paris, Capa photographs Taro buying some lilies of the valley (a picture from that series will later be used for the dedication in Death in the Making). Capa goes to Bilbao. Taro also returns to Spain and is already in town when the fascists begin bombing Valencia on May 14. She travels solo to the city to photograph the results of the nightly attacks on the civilian population. At the end of the month, she meets up with Capa and they travel together to the Navacerrada Pass outside Segovia, where they photograph the Loyalist offensive made famous by Hemingway in For Whom the Bell Tolls.

June 1937
Taro and Capa return from the Segovia front and photograph and film in and around Madrid, including a series on workers in a munitions factory. In Carabanchel, a working-class suburb of Madrid, they photograph and film a series on the dinamiteros. On June 16, they cover the funeral of the Republican general Lukacs in Valencia. On June 24 they arrive at the headquarters of the Chapaiev Battalion in Peñarroya on the Córdoba front. Capa films and Taro photographs a reenactment of the battalion’s victory over the fascists at La Granjuela. At the end of June, Taro photographs some fascist deserters near Blasquez.

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Gerda Taro, [Blind street musicians, Madrid], June 1937 (498.2002)

July 1937
Taro and Capa cover the opening of the Second International Congress of Writers for the Defense of Culture in Valencia on July 4. Capa returns to Paris while Taro follows the congress to Madrid and resettles at the Alianza. She covers the Battle of Brunete (July 6), west of Madrid, proving with her pictures that the Republicans have captured the town. On July 7, she rejoins the writers’ congress for an excursion to the Guadalajara front. Back in Paris for a brief vacation, she celebrates Bastille Day with Capa. She returns to Madrid a few days later, then travels with Ted Allan to a battle site located between Villanueva de la Cañada and Brunete. There, on July 25, one day before her return to Paris, Taro and Allan find themselves in the midst of a panicked retreat. They jump onto a moving car and are both hit when a Loyalist tank crashes into the car. Taro dies early the next morning in a field hospital of the 35th Division at El Escorial. She is the first female photographer to be killed while reporting on war.

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Gum, Inc., Woman Photographer Crushed by Loyalist Tank, 1938 (2010.40.1)

July 27-28, 1937
Taro’s body is laid out at the Alianza in Madrid. Writers, artists, and military delegations pay their respects. The next day, her body is transported to the Alianza in Valencia, where Rubio Hidalgo, chief of the press bureau, delivers the official condolences of the Republican government.

July 29, 1931
The writer Paul Nizan escorts Taro’s coffin to Paris, where the French Communist Party (PCF) declares her an antifascist martyr.

July 31, 1937
Taro’s body is laid out at the Maison de la Culture in Paris.

August 1, 1937
After securing a burial plot for Gerda Taro in Père Lachaise cemetery, the PCF holds her funeral on the day that would have been her twenty-seventh birthday.

Gerda Taro, New York: ICP, 2007, pp. 162-163

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Regards, “Guernica! Almeria! Et Demain?”, June 10, 1937 (2007.82.10)

Female Photographer Fridays is an occasional series that highlights the work and life of female photographers, published on Fridays.

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Weegee Wednesdays: Keeping Cool and Wet in the Summer, Day and Night, During the Hottest Days of the Year, Early 1940s, New York City

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Weegee, [Children playing in water sprayed from an open fire hydrant, Upper West Side. New York], ca. 1945 (Weegee Portfolio 14)

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Weegee, [Children playing in water sprayed from an open fire hydrant, Lower East Side, New York], 1942 (880.1993)

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Weegee, [Woman sprayed with water from an open fire hydrant, New York], ca. 1943 (14503.1993, 14504.1993, 14506.1993)

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Weegee, [Boy spraying woman with water from an open fire hydrant, New York], ca. 1943 (14508.1993)

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Weegee, [Man sprayed with water from an open fire hydrant, New York], ca. 1943 (14509.1993)

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Weegee, [Girls playing in water in the street, New York], ca. 1943 (698.1993)

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Weegee, [Adults and children playing in an open fire hydrant on the hottest day of the year, New York], (2394.1993)

Yes, It Was The Hottest Day of the Year All Right, All Right
Yesterday thermometer showed 92.6 at 4:45 p.m. – highest of 1942. At 1 a.m. yesterday it was 85, that was when this man opened the fire hydrant. PM, July 20, 1942

Weegee Wednesdays is an occasional series exploring, or just enjoying, the life and work of Weegee.

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Happy Birthday Marcel Duchamp: “There are too many artists. When there are so many artists, all possible, all good, then nothing is good “

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Hans Richter (1888-1976), Dreams That Money Can Buy, 1947 (2009.18.2)

Marcel Duchamp. French painter, Cubist, Dadaist, artist and antiartist. Born Blainville, France, 1887 preoccupied with the esthetics of machinery. First ‘ready made’ objects, 1914. Great composition in painted glass ‘Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors,’ 1915-1923. Influenced Dada movement, 1916-20. Abandoned painting in the early twenties for chess. Associated with Surrealist movement. Now living in New York.

Hans Richter (1888-1976), Dreams That Money Can Buy, 1947

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Alexander Liberman (1912-1999), Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), New York City, 1959 (174.1990)

His face tortured with subtleties, his hands moving in a courtly ballet, Marcel Duchamp has a strange, regal presence, an ecclesiastical authority. Only the prelate’s robes are missing. He is a truly Renaissance man, a curious mixture of poetry, earthiness, and cunning. In his New York apartment are many sets of chess, the game with which he is obsessed, perhaps because in it he finds a sublimation for power. Duchamp is a professional chess-player. “I never abandoned painting for chess,” he said. “That is a legend. It is always that way. Just because a man starts to paint does not mean he has to go on painting. He isn’t even obliged to abandon it. He just doesn’t do it any more, just as one doesn’t make omelets if he prefers meat. I do not see the need to classify people, and, above all, to treat painting as a profession. I don’t see why people try to make civil servants out of painters, officials of the Ministry of Fine Arts. There are those who obtain medals and those who make paintings.”
Duchamp is the aristocrat of modern art. He has the haughtiness that comes with the dismissal of creative torment. He has put an end to his creative suffering; but even before this his hands did not be sullied for him to create. He had the arrogant vision to see and to confer art upon what he deigned to see.
Marcel Duchamp, the man who painted a mustache on the Mona Lisa to show his contempt and irreverence for the sacrosanct attitudes that he felt were stifling the creativeness of young artists, shocked America with his Nude Descending a Staircase, in the 1913 New York Armory Show. He was one of the first dadaists, the group which started out in 1916 as a revolt against traditional art. His was a revolt against academic aesthetics; he wanted art without art. Marcel Duchamp was one of the first to discover the “ready-made”; he realized that the everyday object could be transformed by artistic selection into an object with aesthetic qualities.
During our conversation he said, “There are too many artists. When there are so many artists, all possible, all good, then nothing is good. In each century there are no more than one or two geniuses. Otherwise art becomes a profession, a handicraft, and a painter makes a good painting just as a cabinetmaker makes a good piece of furniture.
“Today the artist is free, free to die of hunger. An artist should have no social obligations. If he marries, has children, he very soon becomes a victim. He must earn money to feed his family. Only one person who does not have to be fed is easier than three or four. To increase the number of people around an artist is a calamity. By forty or fifty he can earn his living comfortably, but thirty years have gone by during which he had to compromise to do it. An artist must be an egotist. He must be completely blind to other human beings – egocentric in the grand manner. It is unavoidable, one cannot create great things if he is only half involved and in doubt.
“The life of an artist is like the life of a monk, a lewd monk if you like, very Rabelaisian. It is an ordination.”

Alexander Liberman, The Artist in His Studio. New York: Random House, 1988, p. 244

Alexander Liberman papers, circa 1912-2003.
Marcel Duchamp at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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Alexander Liberman (1912-1999), Marcel Duchamp’s Hands, New York City, 1959-60 (157.1990)

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Weegee Wednesdays: 75 Tears Ago Today

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PM, July 22, 1940, pp 16-17

Yesterday at Coney Island… Temperature 89… They Came Early, Stayed Late

Cameraman Reports On Lost Kids, Parking Troubles
Weegee, whose real name is Arthur Fellig, took this picture at four in the afternoon. The temperature was 89 degree. The Coney Island Chamber of Commerce guessed there were 1,000,000 people. Nobody really knows.
Herewith is Weegee’s own story of his visit to Coney Island.

Saturday was very hot. So I figured Sunday ought to be a good day to make crowd shots at Coney Island. I arrived at the beach at Coney at 4 a.m., Sunday. The beach was crowded mostly with young couples lying on the beach covered with blankets. I took pictures of them. When I asked them their names they all said, “It’s just me and the wife,” as they pointed to the girl on the sand. I went back to the City.
I came back Sunday afternoon. I knew the rush was on when I looked for a parking lot to leave my car. All of them were full and were charging $1 to park the car. That was too much, considering that the usual price for parking on Sunday is 15 to 25 cents.
All the blocks with the “No parking in this block” signs were filled up. I then started to look for a fire hydrant to park. They were filled up, too. After riding round for a half hour I finally parked in a fire zone just off the Boardwalk. I guess no one else thought of that spot.

“This Is Too Much!”

After making the crowd shot I went into the “Cage,” a little shack underneath the Boardwalk with the door and windows covered with chicken wire cooping. That’s where all the lost kids are brought in after they’re found on the beach. The place is run like a cafeteria. Parents come in and look around to see their lost kids and then take them home. Sunday the place was in an uproar.
The policewoman was excited and said to me: “I may be a policewoman, and I have a heart. But this is too much. One hundred and fifty lost kids is too much. I
haven’t eaten yet. I’m going to close up this place.”

No Play Wanted

On the way back to the city I was hailed by a female hitch hiker. “I’ve been waiting 15 minutes for a Surf Ave. street car,” she told me as she stepped into my
car. I left her off at her destination. She wanted to go home and change into a play suit and ride with me. But I told her I had too much work to do and not
enough time to play.
When I got back to the city I took a shower and finished my pictures. While I was at Coney I had two kosher frankfurters and two beers at a Jewish delicatessen
on the Boardwalk. Later on for a chaser I had five more beers, a malted milk, two root beers, three Coca Colas and two glasses of buttermilk. And five cigars, costing 19 cents.

75 years ago today…

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Weegee, [Afternoon crowd at Coney Island, Brooklyn], July 22, 1940, (Weegee Portfolio 4)

Weegee Wednesday is an occasional series exploring, or just enjoying, the life and work of Weegee.

Weegee’s New York (1948) from ICP on Vimeo.

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Weegee Wednesdays: “The city looks strange to me with the sunlight and people going to work”

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PM, July 13, 1941, pp. 62-63. Photos by Weegee [Two days and 74 days ago]

Times Square, 4 a.m.: “What’s the gag?” asked Weegee. It was no gag. They had been to a party and decided to pipe their way to the subway. They wanted to take Weegee to a bar for a nightcap. He passed.

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PM, July 13, 1941, pp. 62-63. Photos by Weegee [Two days and 74 years ago]

Upper Fifth Ave., 4 a.m. [5 a.m.?]: The street lights were turned out… two cars crashed. A badly cut-up youngster asks for a cigaret until the ambulance arrives. Weegee says cops resent accidents that happen around quitting time. Making out reports means overtime, no pay.

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PM, July 13, 1941, pp. 62-63, Photos by Weegee [Two days and 74 years ago]

New York After Midnight

The Early Hours Bring Their Own Cycle of Events

The pictures on these pages were made on the streets of New York – after midnight. They were taken by Weegee, a free-lance photographer who sleeps by day and cruises the city in his car by night, a camera on the seat beside him, the police radio turned on full blast under his dashboard.
The New York that Weegee photographs is a city of gruesome, comic and tragic happenings. Some of these happenings Weegee comes upon by chance; others he finds when a radio alarm directs him to the scene of one of the after-midnight accidents, robberies, suicides and fires that are regular fare for the Police Department.
Weegee starts out at midnight, when the police alarms start coming in steadily over his radio. He’s often at the scene of a crime or accident before the police.
The signals that come over the radio, hour by hour, from midnight to dawn, Weegee says, form a regular pattern:

From midnight to 1 a.m.: Peeping Toms are reported at the windows of nurses’ homes and hotels: the younger hoodlums break into candy, food and auto supply stores.

From 1 a.m. to 2 a.m.: People see (or think they see) mysterious faces on fire escapes and report that burglars are prowling. Most people think they see, Weegee says. The prowlers are usually late home-comers, trying to sneak into bed.

From 2 a.m. to 3 a.m.: Delicatessen stores are burglarized.

From 3 a.m. to 4 a.m.: Bars close and drunks get into fights or refuse to go home.

At 5 a.m.: Street lights are turned out. The next hour, says Weegee, is the hour of awful automobile accidents.

Around 6 in the morning, most suicides jump from windows. Weegee thinks they choose that hour “because it’s the time of a person’s lowest resistance if they’ve been brooding.”

Just when most New Yorkers are leaving for work, Weegee starts for home and bed. “The city looks strange to me with the sunlight and people going to work,” he says. To these people – office workers, laborers, business men and women – the city that Weegee photographs probably would seem as strange as their day-time does to him.

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Footnote to the Amsterdam Ave. in the 90’s, 6 a.m. photo: There are at least three versions of the caption to this image:

Amsterdam Ave. in the 90’s, 6 a.m.” He’s sleeping it off. There’s a pavement sleeper on almost every block after the bars close, Weegee says, “but why pick a funeral home, unless 711 is his lucky number?” PM, July 13, 1941, p. 62

‘SIESTA’
I wanted to get a good drunk picture… I was doing a series for PM on New york street scenes.. But I didn’t want just a picture of bums in hallways… I wanted something different… after roaming the streets for 6 months.. I came across this scene one Sunday morning on Amsterdam Ave… (Typed caption on the verso of 2267.1993)

It was now almost six in the morning… it is still dark… but the church is open… and the early worshipers find solace inside… except for this tired Sunday traveler who, a few blocks away, finds a resting place underneath the canopy at number 711 Amsterdam Avenue… This avenue is full of saloons, and they are called just that… no fancy foreign names like Cocktail Lounges… So sleep on stranger… no one will bother you… not even the cops… Sunday is a good day for sleeping – so is any other day – when one is tired. Naked City, p. 19

Weegee Wednesdays is an occasional series exploring, or just enjoying, the life and work of Weegee.

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Bastille Day, July 14

In preparation of the yearly Bastille Day celebration, Swiss born photographer Florence Henri documented men working on a scaffolding to install a banner of the French flag at the entrance of The Tuileries gardens in Paris in 1937. On the right and in the background the equestrian sculpture Fame mounted on Pegasus by Antoine Coysevox as well as other statues are visible in the gardens of the Louvre palace. The French National holiday commemorates the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789,which marked the beginning of the French Revolution.

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Florence HenriStructure, 1937 (150.1998)

 
Florence HenriStructure, 1937 (153.1998)

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Lowering the Confederate Flag

Thursday evening, July 9, 2015, Governor Nikki R. Haley signed into law a bill to lower the Confederate battle flag that had been waving at the South Carolina State House in Columbus for 50 years. After emotional debates among lawmakers and over three weeks after the Charleston massacre, the flag was ceremonially lowered this morning under loud cheers. The flag itself will be housed at the state-owned Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbus.

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Nikki S. Lee
The Ohio Project (7), 1999 (224.2003)


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Gillian Laub
Shelby, Mt. Vernon, Georgia, May 2008 (2013.91.8)

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