22 Nov 2010

The Mexican Suitcase!

In 2007 a suitcase which had been lost since 1939 was found.  Not in Heathrow's Terminal 5 and not full of dirty washing but in Mexico City and containing the lost negatives of Robert Capa's photographs of the Spanish Civil War.  The suitcase had been passed from hand to hand for safe keeping but eventually its location became unknown until by chance the negatives were found and recognised for what they were.  Not only Capa's work but also those of fellow photojournalists David Seymoure, Fred Stein and Gerda Taro were in the collection.  There were nearly 4,500 negatives.


I was lucky enough to get a chance to view this unusual collection at the New York International Centre of Photography where there was an exhibition of the negatives and of some of the prints that have been made from them.  The war broke out in 1936 and was a military coup led by General Franco and instigated to overthrow the democratic government.  The suitcase contained an extraordinary window into the vast output of the three photographers during the war.  Portraits, battle sequences and the harrowing effects of the war on civilians were on display.  The material not only provided a fascinating view of the war but also demonstrated how the work of these key photographers laid the foundation for modern war photography.

It was sad to note that Gerda Taro was killed in battle in July 1937.

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