March 2014

Arts & Letters

Jane Rogoyska’s ‘Gerda Taro: Inventing Robert Capa’

By Kevin Rabalais
Jonathan Cape; $79.95

From the battlefields of the Spanish Civil War came rumours of a photographer in high heels who paraded her beauty for the morale of Loyalist soldiers. No such images survive, but the ones that do capture the spirit and allure of the woman who would become a symbol of the war.

Widely considered to be the first female photographer to die in battle, Taro was hailed as a modern Joan of Arc. In the years before her death in 1937, aged 26, her stature, hair colour and temperament had earnt her another title, “the Little Red Fox”. Born Gerta Pohorylle in 1910, the left-wing German Jew moved to Paris in her 20s, where she met an unkempt and struggling Hungarian photographer several years her junior. André Friedmann was also Jewish and of a similar political persuasion. The two became friends and, eventually, lovers.

In the elegant and well-researched Gerda Taro: Inventing Robert Capa, Jane Rogoyska details how Pohorylle, with her keen eye and managerial nature, remade herself and Friedmann. She emerged as Gerda Taro, a name easier to pronounce and proximate to Greta Garbo. Upon Friedmann, she bestowed an identity now synonymous with reportage: Robert Capa.

“Robert Capa was to be a rich American photographer, highly successful in the States, recently arrived in Europe,” Rogoyska writes. “Importantly, Capa – being such a big cheese – would accept nothing less than three times the going rate for his work.” Capa went on to cover five wars and co-found the influential Magnum Photos agency before his death in 1954. Taro’s legacy has proven less certain – partly because many of her photographs were incorrectly attributed to Capa. “Her early death, the overshadowing of the Spanish Civil War by the Second World War, and her connection with communism all contributed to her obscurity,” observes Rogoyska in the most extensive account of Taro’s life available in English. The book also includes more than 50 of Taro’s photographs, many of them from negatives discovered in 2007 in long-lost, tattered boxes known as the Mexican Suitcase. The re-emergence of these negatives has enabled researchers to more clearly distinguish Capa’s and Taro’s work and better understand Taro’s importance in the development of photojournalism.

Capa and Taro began their careers in the 1930s, when the introduction of handheld cameras, including the 35-mm Leica, was changing the ways in which photographers covered battle. Rogoyska balances this evolution with historical and technical aspects of the Spanish Civil War. She also chronicles a love affair, one played out during penniless days in Paris and against the backdrop of battle, rendering it as skilfully as a seasoned novelist.

Kevin Rabalais

Kevin Rabalais is the author of The Landscape of Desire.

March 2014

From the front page

Big stick, no carrot

The Coalition’s fixation on energy prices distracts from wage stagnation

Image of Member for Chisholm Gladys Liu and Prime Minister Scott Morrison

How good is Gladys Liu?

Scott Morrison ducks and weaves questions about the embattled MP

Image from ‘Blanco en Blanco’

Venice International Film Festival 2019

Théo Court’s masterful ‘Blanco en Blanco’ is a bright point in a largely lacklustre line-up

‘Here Until August’

‘Here Until August’ by Josephine Rowe

The Australian author’s second short-story collection focuses on the precipice of change rather than its culmination


In This Issue

Andrew Bolt and Tony Abbott. © Jason Edwards / Newspix

The conservative crusade against the ABC

Why do Andrew Bolt and company love to hate the national broadcaster?

The last of the Panamanian golden frogs are to be found in a “frog hotel” in El Valle de Anton. Photo: Brian Gratwicke

Stories of extinction

Andrew Glikson’s ‘Evolution of the Atmosphere’, Elizabeth Kolbert’s ‘The Sixth Extinction’, Errol Fuller’s ‘Lost Animals’ and Clifford Frith’s ‘The Woodhen’

© Peter E Barnes

Hi-tech architecture in Adelaide

The South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute

The Tasmanian election

The ALP, the Libs, the Greens, the split


More in Arts & Letters

Image of ‘Sex in the Brain’

Our largest sexual organ: Amee Baird’s ‘Sex in the Brain’

We know surprisingly little about how our brains orchestrate our sex lives

Detail of Yanni Florence photograph

Losing yourself

How can we be transformed by music if online platforms mean we will always remain ourselves?

Image from ‘The Nightingale’

Tasmanian torments: Jennifer Kent’s ‘The Nightingale’

The Babadook director talks about the necessity of violence in her colonial drama

Photo of Adam Goodes

Swan song: Documenting the Adam Goodes saga

Two documentaries consider how racism ended the AFL star’s career


More in Noted

‘Here Until August’

‘Here Until August’ by Josephine Rowe

The Australian author’s second short-story collection focuses on the precipice of change rather than its culmination

Image of ‘The Godmother’

‘The Godmother’ by Hannelore Cayre

A sardonic French bestseller about a godmother, in the organised crime sense of the word

Image from ‘Lambs of God’

‘Lambs of God’

Director Jeffrey Walker blends ripe melodrama and Gothic thriller in his TV series about three wayward nuns

Cover of ‘The White Girl’ by Tony Birch

‘The White Girl’ by Tony Birch

An emotionally eloquent novel about the necessary inheritance of strength in Indigenous women


Read on

Image of Member for Chisholm Gladys Liu and Prime Minister Scott Morrison

How good is Gladys Liu?

Scott Morrison ducks and weaves questions about the embattled MP

Image from ‘Blanco en Blanco’

Venice International Film Festival 2019

Théo Court’s masterful ‘Blanco en Blanco’ is a bright point in a largely lacklustre line-up

Image from ‘Animals’

Girls, interrupted: Sophie Hyde’s ‘Animals’

This untamed depiction of female friendship moves beyond basic binaries of freedom and control

Image of Peter Dutton

Peter Dutton’s tyranny

On the minister’s treatment of the Tamil asylum-seeker family and his pursuit of power


×
×