Saturday, January 26, 2008

Capa Cache Discovered


(Thousands of negatives of photographs taken by Robert Capa during the Spanish Civil War, long thought to be lost forever, have resurfaced)

A cache of rolls of Robert Capa's negatives from the Spanish Civil War - long thought to have been lost during the Nazi occupation of Paris - have been discovered.

From the NY Times:
T0 the small group of photography experts aware of its existence, it was known simply as “the Mexican suitcase.” And in the pantheon of lost modern cultural treasures, it was surrounded by the same mythical aura as Hemingway’s early manuscripts, which vanished from a train station in 1922.

The suitcase — actually three flimsy cardboard valises — contained thousands of negatives of pictures that Robert Capa, one of the pioneers of modern war photography, took during the Spanish Civil War before he fled Europe for America in 1939, leaving behind the contents of his Paris darkroom.

Capa assumed that the work had been lost during the Nazi invasion, and he died in 1954 on assignment in Vietnam still thinking so...

From what experts have been able to piece together from archives and the research of Mr. Whelan, the biographer (who died last year), Capa apparently asked his darkroom manager, a Hungarian friend and photographer named Imre Weisz, known as Cziki, to save his negatives in 1939 or 1940, when Capa was in New York and feared his work would be destroyed.

Mr. Weisz is believed to have taken the valises to Marseille, but was arrested and sent to an internment camp in Algiers. At some point the negatives ended up with General Aguilar Gonzalez, who carried them to Mexico, where he died in 1967. It is unclear whether the general knew who had taken the pictures or what they showed; but if he did, he appears never to have tried to contact Capa or Mr. Weisz...

The films eventually came into the possession of Gen. Gonzalez's nephew. After some false starts and much negotiation they finally ended up with Capa's brother Cornell at the International Centre for Photography

...“They seem like they were made yesterday,” he said. “They’re not brittle at all. They’re very fresh. We’ve sort of gingerly peeked at some of them just to get a sense of what’s on each roll.”

And discoveries have already been made from the boxes — one red, one green and one beige — whose contents appear to have been carefully labeled in hand-drawn grids made by Mr. Weisz or another studio assistant. Researchers have come across pictures of Hemingway and of Federico García Lorca.

The negative for one of Chim’s most famous Spanish Civil War photographs, showing a woman cradling a baby at her breast as she gazes up toward the speaker at a mass outdoor meeting in 1936, has also been found. “We were astonished to see it,” Mr. Wallis said. Full story at the NY Times

All I can say is - WOW

2 comments:

Stan B. said...

Double WOW!! And when's a film gonna be made on this couple, from documentary to Hollywood extravaganza via Mr. Clooney?!

Drew said...

Wow is right!

I've recently been reading Capa's WWII journals. I recommend them highly.

How exciting must this be for Cornel Capa?

I'm off to read the Times piece. Thanks, Tim.