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Dames Done Wrong: Gerda Taro

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Gerda Taro, the talented, courageous, and brilliant photographer was brushed under the rug of history mainly because she died before she got the chance to do the outrageous and dangerous things that her colleague, friend and, one-time lover Robert Capa did. If she hadn’t been side-swiped by an out of control tank in Spain, then she definitely would have gone on to make history (or photograph it) just like Capa. She was every bit as brave as he was, and maybe even braver because, like Ginger Rogers, she did it in heels!


 

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Gerda Taro, whose real name was Gerta Pohorylle, was born into a middle-class, Jewish family in Stuttgart, Germany in 1910. She was a rambunctious youth and as the rise of Hitler approached, she was not happy. After she was arrested for distributing anti-Nazi propaganda, she figured it was probably time to get out of there, so she went to Paris. One day, one of her friends there was modeling for an aspiring photographer. Her friend didn’t really trust the man so she asked Gerta to come along in case things got dicey. It turns out that Gerta and the photographer, Endre Friedmann (soon to be known as Robert Capa) had a lot in common and hit it off. They were both refugees from Fascist, anti-semitic countries. They both left their countries at extremely young ages and moved to Paris. They were both extremely beautiful. So Gerta and Endre spent a beautiful summer together in the south of France and by the end of it they were head over heels in love.

 

source

 

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Together they created the persona of “Robert Capa,” an elusive and famous American photographer who would only communicate through his assistant, Endre. Gerta, who was working at Alliance Photo Agency at the time, could sell Robert Capa’s work for three times the amount that she could sell Endre Friedmann’s. Irme Schaber, Gerda’s biographer, wrote in the catalogue for an exhibition about the pair’s alter ego, “Taro and Capa were not merely reacting to their precarious economic situation. They were responding as well to the antisemitism of Germany and the increasing antipathy towards foreigners in France. And to elude the stigma attached to being refugees, they spurned every ethnic or religious label." In short, they were an incredible team with an eye for societal change. When their trick was discovered, the agency wasn’t even mad, which is incredibly impressive. Instead they sent them to Spain to cover the Spanish Civil War. Well played, you guys. Well played.

 

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This is when things got a little sketchy for Gerta though. When her pictures became as successful as Endre’s, she decided to make a persona of her own. She began going by the name “Gerda Taro” and let Endre continue using the name “Robert Capa.” She barely had time to make the name Gerda Taro known before she went to Spain and got herself killed by an out of control tank. So unlucky and she was only 26 years old at the time. As the author Jane Rogoyska put it, “She got too involved, became a star reporter and over identified with the republican cause. But she got into this conviction that she had to bear witness. The troops loved her and she kept pushing. Capa warned her not to take so many risks.” But she wasn’t about to let a man, or anyone for that matter, tell her what to do – a cause she died for. Capa went on to photograph the craziest moments in history, namely D-Day during World War II. He came to be known as “the greatest war photographer in the world” and Taro, who would have been totally capable of joining him in all of adventures and taking equally as stunning photographs, couldn’t because she was dead.

 

source (this is a dead/dying Gerda Taro)

 

So after all of her hard work, everyone just assumed that all of the photographs taken by the elusive American photographer, Robert Capa, were done by "Robert Capa" alone. They called Taro Capa’s wife (which wasn’t even true, she refused his proposal) and she went down in history as such, just like so many women before her and so many women after her.

 

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It wasn’t until much later that people figured out that she and Robert Capa shared the pseudonym. Then they figured out that she was not only the only woman reporting from the frontlines of war, but also the only woman ever to have died doing so. Then they were like, hey we should maybe give her an exhibition? Maybe? So seventy years after her death in 2007, the International Center of Photography gave her an exhibition. And then the band Alt-J hopped on the Taro-appreciation train with the song Taro on their album, An Awesome Wave release in 2012. And last but not least, Google sponsored Gerda Taro on their google doodle on August 1, 2018.

I think a longer life and proper recognition for her incredible talent, hard work, and bravery would have been nice, but a google doodle will have to suffice.






 
Sources

Sources

  1. Brenner, Marie. "War Photographer Robert Capa And His Coverage Of D-Day." Vanity Fair. N.p., 2014. Web. 18 Sept. 2018. https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2014/06/photographer-robert-capa-d-day
  2. Diu, Nisha. "Gerda Taro: The Blonde Of Brunete." Telegraph.co.uk. N.p., 2007. Web. 19 Sept. 2018. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/3669821/Gerda-Taro-the-blonde-of...
  3. Martin, Gary Winchester. "Alt-J Writes Entire Song About Two Photographers Dying In War." Fstoppers. N.p., 2014. Web. 20 Sept. 2018. https://fstoppers.com/editorial/alt-j-writes-entire-song-about-two-photo...
  4. O'Hagan, Sean. "Robert Capa And Gerda Taro: Love In A Time Of War." the Guardian. N.p., 2012. Web. 18 Sept. 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/may/13/robert-capa-gerda-t...
  5. Tremlett, Giles. "Gerda Taro: ‘Deathbed Photo’ Of One Of World's First War Photographers Found." the Guardian. N.p., 2018. Web. 20 Sept. 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/19/deathbed-photo-of-war-phot...
  6. "Gerda Taro’S 108Th Birthday." Google.com. N.p., 2018. Web. 20 Sept. 2018. https://www.google.com/doodles/gerda-taros-108th-birthday
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Emily Browne

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