Gerda Toro

Biography taken from Famous Photographers

Gerda Taro (born Gerta Pohorylle) was a photographer of war, as well as a work partner and companion of Robert Capa (born Friedmann Endre). She lived from 1910 until 1937 and was born in Stuttgart, Germany to a Galician Jewish family belonging to the middle class stratum. Taro is considered as the first woman photojournalist to document war frontlines and dying whilst doing this.

In 1929, Taro and her family shifted to Leipzig, just before the start of the Nazi era. She supported the leftists instead of the Nazis. In 1933, she was detained for campaigning against the Nazi government. Her entire family was forced to find residence in some other country than Germany. She and her family went to different abodes.

Escaping Hitler’s rule over Germany, in 1934 Taro went to Paris. A year later, she met Rober Capa and became his assistant. During this time, she learned much about photography and eventually the two fell in love. Taro then became image editor at Alliance Photo.

Gerda Taro was given her primary credential as a photojournalist in 1936. Friedmann and Taro developed a plan of taking news related photographs and selling it by Robert Capa’s name in order to conveniently get through the increasing political turmoil. However, soon their secret was discovered. Even then, Friedmann took over Robert Capa as alternative professional name and Taro’s real name was Gerta Pohorylle which she changed to Gerda Taro after Tarō Okamoto (artists from Japan). In the 1930s,  the duo worked in alliance and covered events close to the coming of the Popular Front power.

In 1936, when the Spanish Civil War sparked, Taro traveled to Barcelona. She recorded the events with David Seymour and Capa. The three documented the war in South of Córdoba and in the Northeast of Aragon. The early photos of war by them are distinct since Taro shot using a Rollei camera that produced squared photos and on the other hand Capa used rendered rectangle Lieca image. For a while in 1937, Capa and Taro worked using similar photographic films.

Afterwards, Taro refused the Capa’s proposal for marriage and moved on with her career, independently. She became involved with the European anti- fascist intellectuals, such as George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway. Her work was published by a newspaper belonging to the leftists, Ce Soir. Later, she commercialized her work under the label, Photo Taro and distributed it to publications like Illustrated London News, Life, Volks Illustrierte, and Regards.

Her unaccompanied photographic documentation of  the bombing in Valencia attained her the most renowned photographs. In 1937 July, her photos were in demand by the press internationally, when Taro was photographically covering Madrid’s region Brunete for the magazine, Ce Soir. At the Battle of Brunete, Taro endured critical and multiple injuries and died.

Her political commitment gained her a anti-fascist label. The French Communist Party provided her with a magnificent funeral in France’s city Paris.

In 2007, her work was displayed in a major American exhibition at the International Center of Photography.

Much after her death, Taro is still remembered. A novel by Susana Fortes, Waiting for Robert Capa is a fictional account of the life of Capa and Gerda Taro. In 2012, a British band sang a song called Taro for their album, An Awesome Wave. Moreover, The Mexican Suitcase is a documentary which narrates the story of Taro’s 4,500 misplaced negatives. These negatives are in the possession of the International Center of Photography.

Links for Gerda Toro
Publications of Toro’s Work
A selction of photographs by Gerda Toro