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Spanish Civil War

Trove of unseen photos shows Gerda Taro and Robert Capa in action

Images taken by a Polish doctor captured the world-famous photographers during the Spanish Civil War

Gerda Taro, photographed on June 12, 1937 with her back to the camera while she covered a funeral during the Spanish Civil War.
Gerda Taro, photographed on June 12, 1937 with her back to the camera while she covered a funeral during the Spanish Civil War. EMILIO ROSENSTEIN

Just weeks after a previously unseen image emerged of Gerda Taro, showing the war photographer in the last moments of her life, another unpublished photo has been identified by the Documentation Center of Historical Memory (CDMH), located in the Spanish city of Salamanca.

In this new image, Trato is photographed from behind on June 12, 1937 as she snaps the Dabrowski battalion during a tribute in Valencia to Hungarian General Lukacs (Máté Zala), who had died a few days earlier at the Huesca front during the Spanish Civil War. The moment was captured by Emilio Rosenstein, a Jewish Pole who fled to Paris in 1928 to escape the anti-Semitism of universities back home and study abroad.

When the Civil War began, Rosenstein, who was by then a doctor, decided to join the International Brigades and fight in defense of the Spanish Republic. He changed his name to Emil Vedín to protect his family back in Poland, and became one of the most important documentarians of the Spanish Civil War.

Rosenstein’s unpublished photo of Taro invites viewers to see the scene through her eyes

As a doctor and a photographer, Vedín provided unparalleled insight into the conflict. His nearly 1,000 frames, preserved by the Salamanca archive, depict life at the front, the rearguard, in exile, from the point of view of a Jewish doctor, bringing together precise moments and fragments in time that humanized the war and those persecuted by it. His daughter Yvonne Jane Rosenstein Azoulay donated his works to the CDMH in Salamanca, and, as well as enriching the center’s documentary heritage, these images have also led to some surprises.

Rosenstein’s unpublished photo of Taro invites viewers to see the scene through her eyes. Less than six weeks later, a Republican tank would accidentally take her life in Brunete. It is not known if the doctor was aware he was taking a photo of Taro. Did he know her? It is possible given he also snapped her partner, war photographer Robert Capa, at the same event.

In this second unseen photo, Capa is not the focal point. A discerning eye is needed to spot him, camera in hand, and the resulting image not as intimate as the photo of Taro.

Robert Capa (left) with his camera on June 12, 1937. ampliar foto
Robert Capa (left) with his camera on June 12, 1937. EMILIO ROSENSTEIN

Taro’s photos from the day are preserved at the International Center of Photography (IPC) in New York. Also present the day that Rosenstein’s photos were taken were Republican prime minister Juan Negrín y López, general staff of the Armed Forces General Vicente Rojo, the minister of agriculture Vicente Uribe, and Jesús Hernández, who was in charge of education and health in the government – subjects for both Rosenstein and Taro. But Taro also included anonymous women in her photographs, capturing the nameless victims and protagonists of a summer day in which she, too, was also caught in the unwavering gaze of a fellow photographer.

María José Turrión belongs to the State Corps of Archivists and is the former director of the CDMH.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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