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Women in Photography: Gerda Taro

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Gerda Taro is a name that many do not know, but perhaps one that they should. Born Gerta Pohorylle to a Jewish family in Stuttgart, Gerda would become one of the first female photojournalists to cover a war from the frontlines, and tragically would also later become the first woman to die whilst doing so.

By the early 1930’s, Hitler’s regime was enjoying dominance in Germany, and Taro became an active member in a number of leftist youth movements. Between 1932-33, Taro was arrested several times for distributing anti-Nazi propaganda. After she fled Germany at the end of the same year, she moved to Paris, where her brief photography career was to begin.

Working in Paris was Endre Friedmann (Later to be known as Robert Capa), one of the most successful and celebrated wartime photographers of the 20th century. Soon, Taro and Friedmann became romantically involved, and whilst working as Friedmann’s partner and assistant, she began to develop her own photography skills and style.

At the outbreak of the Spanish civil war in 1936, Taro and Capa travelled to Spain, where they began to document and follow the ongoing conflict. Whilst much of their photography at the time was distributed and sold under Capa’s name, Taro enjoyed a great deal of freedom, often putting herself in danger on assignment much to Capa’s chagrin. Her style can be distinguished from Capa’s. Often intense and emotionally charged, the tension of battle and the politics surrounding it became evident in her images.

During the battle of Brunete in the summer of 1937, Taro was the only independent correspondent covering the conflict, and international demand had grown for her images and reports. Tragically, whilst documenting the retreat of Republican forces following the battle, she was killed at the age of 26 in circumstances that are still disputed to this day.

Gerda Taro was celebrated as an anti-fascist symbol both before and after her death, and despite much of her work being overshadowed by that of her contemporaries, Taro’s collection of images remain a vital record of the conflict. Her simple style, bravery and focus on the individuals that she captured make her short-lived career all the more tragic, and one that should not be forgotten.

"Taro became an active member in a number of leftist youth movements." Image by Overherd-Overscene

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