Photographers of the Spanish Civil War

Robert Capa

Biography taken from Magnum

On 3 December 1938 Picture Post introduced ‘The Greatest War Photographer in the World: Robert Capa’ with a spread of 26 photographs taken during the Spanish Civil War.

But the ‘greatest war photographer’ hated war. Born Andre Friedmann to Jewish parents in Budapest in 1913, he studied political science at the Deutsche Hochschule für Politik in Berlin. Driven out of the country by the threat of a Nazi regime, he settled in Paris in 1933.

He was represented by Alliance Photo and met the journalist and photographer Gerda Taro. Together, they invented the ‘famous’ American photographer Robert Capa and began to sell his prints under that name. He met Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway, and formed friendships with fellow photographers David ‘Chim’ Seymour and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

From 1936 onwards, Capa’s coverage of the Spanish Civil War appeared regularly. His picture of a Loyalist soldier who had just been fatally wounded earned him his international reputation and became a powerful symbol of war.

After his companion, Gerda Taro, was killed in Spain, Capa travelled to China in 1938 and emigrated to New York a year later. As a correspondent in Europe, he photographed the Second World War, covering the landing of American troops on Omaha beach on D-Day, the liberation of Paris and the Battle of the Bulge.

In 1947 Capa founded Magnum Photos with Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour, George Rodger and William Vandivert. On 25 May 1954 he was photographing for Life in Thai-Binh, Indochina, when he stepped on a landmine and was killed. The French army awarded him the Croix de Guerre with Palm post-humously. The Robert Capa Gold Medal Award was established in 1955 to reward exceptional professional merit.

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.

 David Seymour

Biography taken from National Gallery of Art

Born Dawid Szymin in Warsaw, David Seymour grew up in a cosmopolitan household. His father was a leading publisher of Hebrew and Yiddish books, and he ran a bookstore that was a locus of Warsaw’s Jewish intellectual life. During World War I (1914–1918) the family fled to Minsk and then Odessa before returning to Warsaw in 1919.

A passionate reader, talented pianist, and precocious linguist, Seymour passed his baccalaureate in 1929 and then studied printing technology at Leipzig’s prestigious Staatliche Akademie für Graphische Künste und Buchgewerbe. He retuned home after graduating in 1931, but faced with Poland’s worsening economic and political climate he decided to continue his education in Paris. He enrolled at the Sorbonne in 1932 to study physics and chemistry.

Concerned about straining his family’s resources, Seymour in 1933 sought work from David Rappaport, a family friend who ran a Paris-based photo agency. Though untrained in photography, Seymour was a quick learner. Soon his photographs, largely of working class subjects, began appearing in several Parisian illustrated periodicals. He started stamping his prints “Chim,” an abbreviated version of Szymin that was easier to pronounce. In 1934, he was appointed staff photographer for Regards, a leftist illustrated weekly that pioneered humanist photography in France. During these early years in Paris he also forged a lifelong friendship with Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson, two other young, politically progressive photographers.

Regards sent Chim to report on the Spanish Civil War soon after its outbreak in July 1936. His photographs of battles and especially of life behind the lines cemented his reputation as a leading photojournalist. He photographed the defeated Republicans fleeing to France and then covered the voyage of the first ship to carry Spanish émigrés to Mexico.

Seymour made his way from Mexico to New York, arriving just after the beginning of World War II. Taking advantage of immigration regulations that allowed foreigners to open businesses, he teamed up with German photographer Leo Cohn to open what soon became a highly regarded photo-finishing business (called Leco) in New York. Many notable photographers who had left Europe, including André Kertész, used Leco as their darkroom.

Chim was drafted into the American army in 1942. While training in military intelligence at Camp Ritchie, Maryland, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen. Fearful of reprisals by the Nazis against his family in occupied Poland, he adopted a new, Anglo-Saxon name, David Robert Seymour. Between 1942 and 1945, Chim served in photo reconnaissance and interpretation in the U.S. Army. He worked in England, France, and eventually occupied Germany, earning several promotions and a bronze star. While in Paris to celebrate the city’s liberation he found that his old apartment had been sealed by the SS, but that nothing had been removed. Soon he would learn that both his parents had been killed by the Nazis.

In 1947, Seymour cofounded Magnum Photos and served as its first vice president. In 1948, he was commissioned by UNICEF to photograph the plight of Europe’s children in the aftermath of World War II. The resulting images—striking and sympathetic—are among his best-known works.

In the 1950s, Seymour made Rome his home base. He became the trusted portraitist of many film stars—including Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, and Ingrid Bergman—whose images were in high demand by magazines such as Life. With a deep affinity for Mediterranean culture, he traveled frequently around Italy and Greece to pursue his own photography. He also became a dedicated documentor of the new state of Israel, with which he identified closely.

He continued to photograph regularly, even after assuming the presidency of Magnum following Capa’s death in 1954. Seymour remained president until November 10, 1956, when he and French photographer Jean Roy were killed by Egyptian machine-gun fire en route to covering a prisoner exchange in the aftermath of the Suez Crisis.

Kati Horna

Profile taken from Time

When Kati Horna covered the Spanish Civil War, she was alongside documentary photography giants such as Robert Capa, her childhood friend. Yet, her unusual, surrealist-inspired images of that conflict stand in stark contrast to Capa’s frontline photographs, making her contributions to the annals of conflict photography even more singular.

Horna’s adventurous life took her from her native Hungary to Berlin, Paris, and ultimately Mexico. She was born Katalin Deutsch in 1912 to a Jewish family in Budapest; there she met Capa (then known as Endré Friedmann) when she was a teenager. The two quickly became inseparable, signed up in the same left-wing movement, and took up photography, often making each other’s portraits.

In 1930, Horna and Capa were separated when she went to live in Berlin. In the German capital, she worked for Simon Guttman’s agency, Dephot, and met with playwright and theatre director Bertolt Brecht as well as painter and photographer Lazlo Moholy-Nagy. The latter’s photomontage work and his double-exposure photographs were to be a lasting influence.

In March 1933, when the National Socialist Party came to power, Horna fled to Paris, where she was reunited with Capa. Armed with a 6×6 Rolleiflex, she did reportages on Paris flea markets and cafés for the agency Lutetia-Press, but, immersed in Surrealism’s birthplace, she quickly developed a taste for the staged shot, superimposition, and the image as a poetic narrative.

Four years later, when the Confédération Générale du Travail union asked her to document the Spanish Civil War, she left with Capa and his assistant, Chiki Weisz, as well as Gerda Taro and David “Chim” Seymour. For the next 18 months, she photographed at the Aragon front, Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid and a number of remote towns and villages. Her photographs were published in Spanish anarchist magazines such as Umbral (where she met her future husband, Jose Horna), Tierra y Libertad, Libre-Studio, Tiempo Nuevos