Photographer Gerda Taro, Out of the Shadows at Last?
The German Jewish photographer Gerda Taro (born Gerta Pohorylle in Stuttgart, to a family of Polish Jewish origin) has long been overshadowed by her companion, the legendary photographer Robert Capa.
However, that may soon change. Taro (1910- 1937) was the first female war photographer, capturing powerful images of the Spanish Civil War, and was sadly also the first female photographer to be killed in a combat zone. Just as Capa, a Hungarian Jew born Endre Ernő Friedmann, used a pseudonym to add “American” glamor to his photos, so his companion assumed the name Gerda Taro for a Greta Garbo-like Hollywood mystique. And her Hollywood-like dreams will soon be fulfilled.
In October, the American Jewish director Michael Mann announced plans for a feature film, “Waiting for Robert Capa,” about the tragic Taro-Capa romance, scheduled for release in 2012. Adapted from a Spanish bestseller, “Esperando a Robert Capa” by Susana Fortes, which tellingly reproduces a photo of Capa alone on the cover, the film may finally give long overdue attention on Taro’s artistic gifts.
These gifts are also clearly visible in a new edition of “Gerda Taro” from Steidl Books, the first edition of which served as catalog for a well-received 2007-2008 exhibit at New York’s International Center Of Photography (ICP).
Taro’s images movingly express concern for how war affects women and children , not just soldiers. Taro also captured moments of joyful vivacity even in dark times, which was typical of her dynamic nature; a photo taken by Capa of Taro sleeping in pajamas shows her arms and legs positioned on the bed as if she were running a marathon, even in dreamland.
Yet another upcoming exhibit at the ICP, scheduled for fall 2010, will focus on the 2008 discovery of a long-lost suitcase containing thousands of images taken by Taro, Capa, and their friend Chim. This material has already inspired a vivid website by London-born photo curator and documentarian Trisha Ziff .
So far generally reported as a “Capa” story, it is to be hoped that the new material encourages further individual appreciation of Taro as a unique, utterly fearless artist, rather than a mere extension or reflection of the equally great Capa.
Watch a news report about a 2009 Barcelona exhibit of Capa and Taro’s war photos below.