They were thought to be lost forever. After an incredible journey, 4500 negatives from the legendary photojournalist Robert Capa and his friends Gerda Taro and David ‘Chim’ Seymour, resurfaced in New York in 2008
In “Images of War, Finally Unpacked,” Holland Cotter reviews an exhibition called “The Mexican Suitcase” at the International Center of Photography in New York, which documents wartime life in Spain between 1936 and 1939 through the eyes of three photographers — Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and David Seymour (Chim) — in images no one seems to have seen for more than a half century.
The tale begins in Paris in 1935, according to Variety, and will be a "snapshot of a torrid two-year romance with Gerda Taro during the Spanish Civil War." According to Fortes' novel, Taro and Capa, both refugees fleeing the Nazis, had the shared intention when they met of becoming photographers and that the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War a year later gave them their big opportunity.
When the three weathered cardboard boxes — known collectively, and cinematically, as the Mexican suitcase — arrived at the International Center of Photography more than a year ago, one of the first things a conservator did was bend down and sniff the film coiled inside, fearful of a telltale acrid odor, a sign of nitrate decay.
But the rolls turned out to be in remarkably good shape despite being almost untouched for 70 years. And so began a painstaking process of unfurling, scanning and trying to make sense of some 4,300 negatives taken by Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and David Seymour during the Spanish Civil War, groundbreaking work that was long thought to be lost but resurfaced several years ago in Mexico City.
Robert Capa’s “Mexican Suitcase,” actually three flimsy cardboard valises containing thousands of negatives of pictures that Capa and others took during the Spanish Civil War before he fled Europe for America in 1939, has now been opened.
TO 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. But in 1995 word began to spread that the negatives had somehow survived, after taking a journey worthy of a John le Carré novel: Paris to Marseille and then, in the hands of a Mexican general and